HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's been a long 14 months for health care workers as they've been on the frontlines battling COVID-19.
ABC13 is recognizing some of those heroes this week for National Nurses Week - it runs until May 12.
Thursday marked National Nurses Day.
One of the nurses that has been on the frontlines since the beginning is Stephanice Stephen. She's a clinical manager for the surgical ICU and medical ICU at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center.
In May 2020, just two months after the pandemic began, she chronicled her experiences in video blogs.
One of them showed her with tears running down her cheeks.
"I don't know how to fake it today," she said in the video blog. She said that day was especially hard. "I'm trying to still smile through the mask because, you know, we have to put on masks outside in the unit, but they see it in my eyes."
When that video was recorded, it was just the beginning of the pandemic with many unknowns.
Stephen reflects back on that video blog today.
"That video blog, for me, was just a way for me documenting my journey through this, getting a look back, like now, to be able to sit here and smile and say, 'Wow. I didn't think we'd get here to this place,'" she said.
It has certainly been a difficult year. The virus has claimed 579,000 lives in the U.S. and left millions more infected. Stephen remembers the grueling days.
"It was just the emotional toll of so many sick people and not being able to understand when the end was coming and still having to show up every single day and having to deal with that," said Stephen.
However, through the exhaustion, there were triumphs.
"To know that we have been able to help someone, whether you help them grieve through this process, help them get back home to their loved one, or just being here for the community, I think there's a takeaway for all nurses in this," said Stephen.
She said with the COVID-19 vaccine already being administered to thousands of people, they're turning the corner.
Now, when she looks back at her video blog from a year ago, she said she's smiling under her mask more today.
"I would say under that mask, you will see not just smiling with the eyes, you're hearing it in that voice," said Stephen. "There's definitely hope in that voice. That, 'Okay, we're getting to that finish line.'"
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