coronavirus outbreak

Covid-19 Nurse's Son Loves Buzz Lightyear, So She Became a PPE Superhero

Clad in protective gear, Katie Lord thought she looked like her son's favorite Toy Story character

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Katie Lord was in the middle of a five-day week at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in her extensive protective gear.

She was thinking about her son Sean, back at home in Media, who she wouldn't see for several days. Working her night shifts in the Covid-19 ward, she doesn't see her family as much; Penn offers hotel stays for the hospital workers, and she will stay over between shifts to avoid bringing it into contact with her family.

Sean turned 3 on Friday and had a Buzz Lightyear themed birthday at home. Weeks before that, when she decided to pose for the picture with help of a colleague, she was thinking about how to communicate with him.

"You can’t explain what coronavirus is or why mommy isn’t home," Lord said. But she thought maybe the picture can show him why she wears the gear that might seem scary. As an added bonus, the PAPR headgear and face shield "kind of looks like Buzz Lightyear’s anyway," she said. The battery-operated rig circulates air within the helmet.

The wings have to be drawn on.

On the day the photo was taken, she wasn't going to be home for 2 more days. That was the first time Sean could see his mom at work as his favorite superhero.

She does go back on the days off though, after showering at the hotel and changing, to avoid bringing the virus home on her clothes. Then she'll throw them in a trash bag and into the wash as soon as she gets home.

She may be Sean's superhero but doesn't relish that title. Her job in a lot of ways remains the same as it has been: to take care of people. But she's definitely noticed a difference at work — she was moved to a different floor to care for coronavirus patients.

And on a more positive note, donations have been pouring in to her ward.

"Everyone is giving, everyone is trying to support us," Lord said. Restaurants and delis, even as they struggle with the current economic situation, have donated meals to the staff. She hasn't needed to bring a meal to work in weeks.

“It’s this community, this city that’s making us feel special,” she added.

She also is grateful to her husband Tim, who is watching Sean and brother Ryan, 1, 24/7 when she is working.

"He’s amazing, he was born to be a dad," she said.

Though Buzz has long been Sean's reigning favorite, the theme of the balloons on Friday (and they even had green, white and purple tie-dyed waffles), Sean dressed up as Spider-Man for the family event.

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