Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London is treating more COVID-19 patients than ever before.
The hospital peaked at 31 COVID-19 hospitalizations in May. There are 39 COVID-19 patients being treated at the hospital as of Monday, according to a spokesperson for the hospital.
"It does not get any easier," said Laura Arre, a registered nurse at the hospital. "It doesn't get any easier to talk to family over the phone who just want, more than anything, to be here, at the bedside."
Nurses Laura Arre and Christopher Comfort have worked with COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic. In April they were among a handful of L&M nurses who volunteered to help in Greenwich and Bridgeport, where hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
After eight months of working on the frontlines of the pandemic, Arre and Comfort now have experienced the virus on both ends of the spectrum: as caregivers and as patients.
Arre tested positive for the virus in October. She said at first, she experienced symptoms similar to allergies or a cold. The next day, however, she lost her sense of taste and smell and got tested.
“That was a very difficult time for me. That waiting period. Waiting for the test results," said Arre.
At the beginning of the pandemic, one of Arre's biggest concerns was bringing the virus home to her family. Her cousin died from COVID-19 in the spring.
“It was stressful. It was stressful trying to calm everyone in my family down," said Arre. “It just feels like time stands still while you are waiting and you don’t know what is going to happen. All you have time to do is just think about all of the possible different scenarios.”
Arre's son did test positive for the virus, as well. They both experienced mild symptoms and recovered at home.
Comfort just returned to work after testing positive for the virus in mid-November. He also avoided a hospital stay, but did experience symptoms.
“I had eight days of fevers. And I was just like, 'when is this going to stop,'" said Comfort. “You get nervous thinking that you are going to see the worst-case scenario.”
Comfort and Arre do not know how or where they contracted the virus. They said that they both follow all safety guidelines, during work hours and outside of work.
While the nurses say they would rather have not had the virus, they agree that their experiences are helping them care for their patients.
"I feel like I can connect more with the patient," said Comfort.
"Just understanding what they are going through and how scared they are," said Arre. "Or how scared their family is."
As cases continue to climb across the state and country, the nurses are pleading with people to remain vigilant.
“If we can just hold on for a month or two, I think we can make a lot of progress," said Comfort.
However, they say they will be ready to respond no matter what.
“Whatever feelings of anxiety or nervousness I have, it just goes away the minute I walk in here because I know there are people here that need me," said Arre.