Posted April 23, 2020
For Rebecca Sullivan’s family, emergency medicine is just a way of life. It’s where it all started, literally.
Rebecca, a registered nurse in the emergency room at Mercy Health – Lorain Hospital, met her husband Matt, a North Ridgeville firefighter and paramedic, in Lorain County Community College’s paramedic program.
“We met in the LCCC program in 2009, got married in 2012, and had these crazy kids in 2015,” Rebecca said.
Those crazy kids are twins, Aidan and Harper. And to them, their frontline COVID-19 fighting parents are just doing their jobs.
“They know daddy works on a fire truck and in an ambulance, and mommy works in an emergency room,” Rebecca said.
Emergency medicine has always been Rebecca’s calling. She had just gotten her driver’s license when a serious accident happened in front of her car. Rebecca pulled over and ran to help, keeping pressure on the motorist’s head wound until paramedics arrived.
“One of the paramedics said to me, ‘Wow. You did a really great job. You should think about doing this,’” Rebecca said.
That’s when it clicked.
“I felt like emergency medicine was my thing,” she said. “I’ve always taken pride in helping people in urgent need.”
After Rebecca graduated from Elyria High School she enrolled in Lorain County Community College’s nursing program. She earned her State Tested Nurse Aide license two years later but set aside nursing to earn a certificate as an Emergency Medical Technician and then a paramedic.
Rebecca spent nearly a decade working as a paramedic for LifeCare Ambulance in Lorain.
“I liked being out in the community,” she said. “Everything about one patient is different from the last. I liked the challenge of having to think things through quickly and being there for someone when they’re truly in their time of need.”
Sullivan enjoyed the challenge and constant change of being a paramedic, but when their children came along, her and Matt’s schedules no longer fit their lives.
“Both of us were working 24-hour shifts, and after we had the twins, our schedules weren’t working for us,” she said. “I had always wanted to go back to nursing school, and I knew it was time.”
Sullivan joined LCCC’s paramedic to RN program, knowing it would give her the flexibility she needed to work part time and raise her children. She also earned credit for prior coursework, saving her time and money.
In May 2017 Sullivan graduated from LCCC’s RN program and began working in the emergency room at Mercy. She was ready for the challenge but didn’t expect to be on the frontlines of a global pandemic within a few years.
“Am I anxious? Yes. But can I handle it? Yeah,” she said. “I’ve been in stressful situations in my job; it’s just something I deal with in my profession.”
What makes Rebecca most anxious is the possibility of passing the virus to someone she loves.
“I don’t want to spread this or give to anyone I care about,” she said. “Matt and I are both on the frontlines, but we’re taking extra precautions at work and at home to protect everyone.”
One of those precautions is social distancing. Rebecca and her family started self-isolating when possible before Ohio’s stay-at-home order and she hopes everyone is taking it seriously – because it is working.
“What people are doing with social distancing is making a difference,” Rebecca said. “By continuing social distancing and taking the stay-at-home order seriously, we’re slowing and stopping this virus in our area. We’re saving lives and people that we know.”
The same community that’s spreading apart to save lives is also coming together to make the lives of local RNs a little easier.
From kind words to homemade masks to food, Lorain County residents are showing their support and appreciation for those like Rebecca who are putting themselves at risk to help others.
“We’ve had people who haven’t even come to the emergency room as patients write thank you letters for just being us and doing what we do,” she said. “It’s nice to know the community is thinking about us. And we will continue to be here for them when they need us.”