There are so many heroes working to keep us safe today. In celebration of National Hospital Week, we want to extend an extra special thanks to health care workers who are working tirelessly to protect their communities today and every day. We heard Rebecca Noonan’s story and knew we had to shine a light on the great work she’s doing, despite the struggle of having to cancel important milestones she should have been celebrating. Read on to hear how Rebecca has made it through this trying time, and her own advice on how you can remind yourself that better times are ahead.

Rebecca Noonan’s Story

This spring has turned out a lot differently than I anticipated it would just a few months ago. I was looking forward to so many events, some of them my own, and some milestones of my family and friends that I couldn’t wait to celebrate with them. My wedding was scheduled for this June, and in the weeks surrounding, my bridal shower, bachelorette party, dress fittings, food tastings, rehearsal dinner and honeymoon.

On top of that, I was completing my fourth year of medical school. Every March, fourth-year medical students find out where they will be training for residency. This is called “Match Day” and is normally marked by a big party at school with the entire class. It quickly became clear that we would not be celebrating any of these milestones the way I thought we would. All within a few weeks’ time, I postponed my wedding and all of the related events, opened an email in my tiny apartment to learn that I will be moving across the country this summer to begin training in Emergency Medicine, and graduated medical school a month early (and virtually) to begin working on the front lines of COVID-19 in New York as a brand new doctor. And on top of that, I’ve been living by myself, away from my fiancé and our families for weeks, so I don’t put them at risk of getting sick while I work.

The past couple of months have not been easy, and I’ve had my fair share of tears and nervous breakdowns (probably more than my fair share!) in trying to roll with the punches. But I’ve learned a lot and come to a few realizations… As I walk into the hospital to care for patients every day, I am devastated by what is happening to our world and often times scared for my own health. I am amazed by my coworkers’ compassion and dedication and truly humbled by the gravity of the situation. But that doesn’t mean I can’t also be sad for losses of my “firsts.” We are allowed to mourn the life we thought we would be living this year while also recognizing the tremendous loss of so many lives and sacrifice of all of our essential workers. These are not mutually exclusive.

I think that the reason I’ve been able to cope during this time is because I’ve given myself permission to be sad. I also have THE MOST incredible support system, who let me cry it out, who stepped up to help me reschedule events, and who (despite their own fears for my safety) encouraged me to follow my heart and lend a hand in the hospital. Keeping perspective has been important too – yes, we all have the right to be devastated that we postponed our wedding, or missed a huge competition despite months of preparation, or graduated on Zoom after years of hard work, or even just celebrated a birthday in quarantine or cancelled dinner plans with friends. Because it sucks!

But I think it’s important to remind ourselves of what we DO have. Focusing on the losses 100% of the time doesn’t allow you to move forward. It’s certainly not the same that my wedding events will be happening backwards (and some maybe not at all), and that I’ll never get back my Match Day or medical school graduation. But I will get married, and I will eventually get to celebrate with family and friends, and I have achieved my dream of becoming a doctor (with the added bonus of getting to care for patients earlier than expected). And while I may not be able to put my finger on it now, I know something good will come out of all of this… I have a feeling all of our celebrations will more than make up for lost time when they do happen.