(NEW YORK) — It’s a powerful image from the front lines: A married couple of nurse anesthetists, pausing for a moment together, before they moved to the next surgery at Florida’s Tampa General Hospital.
In the photo, Mindy and Ben Cayer are wearing vital protective gear and holding each other while in the intensive care unit.
Their team has the high-risk job of placing breathing tubes in patients, any of whom could have COVID-19.
The two met in nursing school at Union University in Tennessee in 2007, thanks to being seated in alphabetical order — Mindy’s maiden name is Brock — and graduated together. They married and began working side-by-side as well as commuting to work together.
The day that the photograph was taken by TeamHealth chief nurse anesthetist Nicole Hubbard, new COVID-19 procedures had recently been put in place and the mood was tense, Ben Cayer said.
“We were kinda bickering about foolish stuff, what was on the radio … you know, stuff like that. … I was complaining that she hadn’t done the dishes,” he told ABC News on Friday. ,
Before they came together in that photograph, they’d each intubated several patients in rooms right next to each other. When they got a break in their duties, Ben Cayer said, he found Mindy so they could talk.
He said that when the photograph was taken, the two were discussing how they had never gone through anything like the COVID-19 crisis before and were both feeling anxious.
“All that stuff that we were arguing about really didn’t matter, you know, in the car. It didn’t matter in the whole scheme of things and we were just really happy and grateful that we were able to serve together as a couple,” Ben Cayer told ABC News on Friday.
Mindy Cayer said that shift, wearing that new protective gear, lasted 12 hours.
“It was just mentally draining for us,” Ben Cayer said. “We were like, ‘Wow, this is our new norm at the end of the day.'”
Mindy Cayer said that it helped immensely having Ben in the hospital.
“Honestly if you’re not there, in the situation, it’s very hard to comprehend all the feelings and, you know, I guess the stress level that you’re going through. And he gets it,” she said.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has hit close to home for the couple. Mindy Cayer’s mother, Sandra, tested positive for the deadly virus, but she is currently doing OK.
“I haven’t seen them since Christmas,” Mindy Cayer told ABC News on Friday. “And I’m ready for this to be over so I can actually go see them without being worried that I would infect them.”
They shared with ABC News the message they hoped the image of the two of them together got across.
“[If] we just stick together, we’re stronger together,” Ben Cayer said. “If we care about each other, then we’re going to get through this.”
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