Emma Tveretinov had just finished working a long, difficult shift, and she was exhausted. In the locker room, she found her phone and started scrolling through a long series of missed text messages from her family.
Her mother had been taken to the hospital with COVID-19.
Stunned, Emma took off her mask and looked at herself in the mirror. Struck by the indentations the mask had deeply etched into her face, she took a quick selfie.
I sent the photo to my fiancé along with the news about my mother, and I deleted it.
Emma’s fiancé—a resident physician in sports medicine at Stanford—thought the photo had truly captured all the emotions she was experiencing. He kept the image, and later that week encouraged her to share it on social media. She decided to post it on Instagram.
Within a few days she received an unexpected email from a multinational consumer goods company and manufacturer of a popular brand of facial soap—expressing interest in using her photo for a global media campaign entitled, “Courage is Beautiful.”
“Everything moved very, very quickly. Less than a week from the time I took the photo, it was being broadcast worldwide in television commercials and online media,” she says. The aim of the campaign was to show appreciation for health-care workers all over the world, using their real-life photos, not actors or professional photography.
As a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), Emma is directly on the front lines. One of her primary responsibilities is to manage the patient’s airways and perform intubation.
“Intubation involves placing a breathing tube inside the patient’s oral cavity and down into the trachea, which then connects to a ventilator that provides oxygen to the lungs. Given our intimate contact with the patient and their airway, as anesthesia providers we are actually among the highest at risk in the hospital for potentially contracting this disease. It’s really important that we wear personal protective equipment,” she says.
CRNAs are advanced practice nurses who complete up to five years of intensive critical care bedside work before returning to school for a master’s or doctorate degree in anesthesia, including more than 8,000 clinical hours of on-the-job training in anesthesia. In California and other states, they may do this work without the oversight of an anesthesiologist.
At Stanford, CRNAs work in a team environment in the Stanford Hospital, Byers Eye Institute, Endoscopy, Cath Lab, and Same Day Surgery Center.
As a thank you to Emma for the use of her photo, the company offered to provide a donation to the charity of her choice, and she chose Stanford Health Care.
“I feel so incredibly lucky to be working here at Stanford Health Care. And I was very excited for the opportunity to give back to the institution that I love,” she says. “While we certainly hear about the hardships that have been experienced at multiple hospitals across the nation during this COVID-19 pandemic, I truly believe that Stanford has taken great care of its health-care workers. Our CRNA team has been fully supported by the anesthesia department, every step of the way.”
When it comes to access to personal protective equipment and availability of COVID-19 testing, Emma feels that Stanford is ahead of the curve. She credits Stanford with the rapid testing developed here, which provides results within a few hours.
“All of our patients for non-emergency care are tested for COVID-19 ahead of time. While the work is certainly not easy, we are so fortunate because by the time the patient is going back for their procedure, most of the time the results are available,” she says.
On April 23, first responders, including firefighters and law enforcement, lined up outside Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford as a show of support and gratitude for health-care workers for their dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emma was one of those they cheered on.
“It was such a moment. That morning was such a tough morning for me. My mother was still sick in the hospital, and there was a lot of uncertainty about her condition. When I arrived, I saw all the firefighters lined up cheering on health-care workers, and my mood was immediately lifted,” she says.
And Emma’s mother?
“It was definitely a difficult journey, with her being hospitalized for about a week and me not being able to be there with her. But she has made the recovery and is doing much better,” says Emma.
“I’d like to say thank you to everybody who has contributed to caring for patients through this COVID-19 pandemic. While I feel extremely blessed and fortunate to have my photo selected to be used in a global advertising campaign, my image only serves to represent the many hundreds of thousands of health-care workers worldwide who have all contributed greatly in the collective fight against this virus.”