Rita Krenz is familiar with saving lives. As an air ambulance flight paramedic, she flies 24-hour shifts several times a week to help people who need to be rescued in difficult areas. But after being in the profession she realized that she was hurting the patients too. Being airlifted can cost thousands of dollars in the United States, on top of a hefty bill from the hospital. So, Krenz teamed up with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys and forgives medical debt, and raised over $18,000. With that money RIP Medical Debt relieved over 900 medical bills.
Krenz does not know if the money she raised helped the people she has saved directly but the fact that her efforts are helping people move on in life is enough to bring her peace of mind. Relieving medical debt can help people get jobs, buy a car, or continue with the care they need. When the debt is relieved RIP Medical Debt sends a yellow letter to notify the person. “This, it helps give some relief to that weariness,” she told the Associated Press. “I can picture a person going to the mailbox and getting that letter.”
Chinese artist Yang Qian still remembers the drastic change in her life when her hometown of Wuhan, China began its lockdown in response to COVID-19. She remembers the fear and uncertainty. She remembers the hospitals only caring for those who were sickest. She remembers getting sick and writing her will, assuming she was dying from COVID-19.
Over a year later, Wuhan has returned almost completely to the same bustling city it was before the pandemic, but now the residents are wearing face masks among other COVID-19 precautions. However, Qian wants to remember the initial lockdown and its effect on the city, so she is channeling her experience and others into art. Her first piece captured when she helped a mother and daughter whose father died from COVID-19. When they got sick, Qian directed them to the hospital on a bike since that was the only means of transportation. One features a hospital hallway and another gives an aerial view of the city. For Qian, the artwork is a reminder of how far the city has come. “To express what I’ve seen in a realistic way, this is the responsibility I’ve given myself. I also hope that much of the history should not be forgotten,” Yang told the Associated Press.
Nursing homes are opening their doors again to visitors, and some residents are receiving hugs from loved ones they have not seen since the pandemic began. With vaccine rollouts across the country, nursing homes are lifting restrictions to allow families to visit their loved ones again. Some residents are getting their first hug since the pandemic began. “This is the beginning of the very best to come, hopefully, for all of us,” Gloria Winston, a 94-year-old retirement community resident in Providence, Rhode Island, told the Associated Press. “The world is going in the right direction. We need the nourishment of each other.”
In the U.S. about 1.4 million nursing home residents and 1 million workers at long-term care facilities are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many families are finally able to reunite in person again as the risk of infection has decreased. The reunions are emotional and healing. Brandon Johnson, a 27-year-old from Tennessee was able to hug his great-grandmother, Phyllis, on her 89th birthday. “COVID robbed a year from us — a year where we couldn’t hug her, kiss on her and love her. That was tough, but now we’re making the most of it,” he told the Associated Press. “COVID is a nasty thing, but the one good thing about it is that it was a wake-up call to be really grateful for what you have.”