If you’ve been working on the front lines of the pandemic, you’re probably used to working long hours as you race to save as many patients from the deadly coronavirus as possible. However, as an essential worker, you are invaluable to your team and the community at large. You can’t afford to neglect your health even as the pressures of the job start to take their toll.
Sette Buenaventura, 26, was working as a nurse at Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester, U.K. before ultimately losing her leg to cancer. She ignored a painful cramp in her right calf for almost eight weeks as she cared for her patients.
As a nurse, you may be used to putting the needs of your patients ahead of your own, but you can’t do your job if you neglect your own health. Buenaventura is sharing her unique story to remind nurses and caregivers everywhere to look after their own health, so they can take care of their patients tomorrow.
From Mild Irritation to Major Problems
When the pandemic started flaring up in the United Kingdom, it was all hands on deck for many medical centers and providers. That was true of Sette Buenaventura. Like many nurses, she started working tirelessly to keep up with the number of new patients coming through the door complaining of flu-like symptoms.
As the job heated up, she started having trouble walking due to a pain in her right calf. She assumed it was just a side-effect of working on her feet for 12 hours a day.
As she told BBC News, “When Covid-19 kicked off, we worked flat out, we didn’t have time to worry about aches and pains.”
In April, a screening revealed a sarcoma, a type of cancerous tumor that occurs in the bones and soft tissues. By May, the tumor had swelled to the size of a “golf ball” and doctors told Buenaventura that her best hope was to have the leg amputated above the knee.
When she heard the news, Buenaventura got upset, but she didn’t have time to dwell on the ordeal, so she just accepted her new reality and got on with her life. She knew her situation paled in comparison to some of her patients, including those wrestling with the deadly coronavirus.
Buenaventura is also a model, and she was never one to completely neglect her health. She always tried to eat healthy and take care of herself, but she ignored certain symptoms on the job that ultimately affected her lifestyle. This is a reminder that even if you think of yourself as healthy, you can still be susceptible to serious conditions.
“I like to look after myself and try my best to be healthy. I work in healthcare and never expected this to happen to me.”
Her Message to Other Front Line Workers
After losing the bottom half of her right leg, Buenaventura is turning her story into a positive message for nurses and other frontline workers. She is encouraging these brave men and women to see a doctor if they notice any unusual aches and pains.
“I think it’s really important for anyone with a lingering pain to go and get it checked out,” she said. “If I had caught this sooner, I would probably be in a different position now.”
Nurses are used to putting their bodies through all kinds of pain and discomfort as they take care of their patients, but they can’t afford to dismiss everyday concerns or prolonged symptoms. They should schedule regular appointments with their doctor or care provider, monitor their health at home and on the job, and do their best to lead a healthy lifestyle.
If the pressures of the job are taking a toll on your health, look for ways to make the best of the situation instead of just accepting the status quo. Talk to your manager or supervisor about making changes in the workplace, such as scheduling regular breaks, giving nurses a chance to sit down every once in a while, reassigning some providers to more sedentary positions, or wearing shoes that support the feet and legs, while improving your overall posture.
Today, Buenaventura is in much better spirits than she was just a few months ago. With a prosthetic leg, she plans to return to the job in November. This experience has changed her outlook as a nurse in so many ways. She wants to share her story with her patients and colleagues in the future, so they can stay in control of their health.