Vancouver doctor takes contrasting photos of health-care workers on and off the job
VANCOUVER -- It’s the new normal for anesthesiologists working in an operating room: head-to-toe personal protective equipment.
It's a precaution they’re taking in case the patient they’re treating has the novel coronavirus.
“Our jobs as anesthesiologists are stressful at baseline. Throw in a deadly contagious virus and constantly changing policies and procedures around how to deal with it, and it became quite overwhelming. It's the kind of stress it's hard to turn off when you go home,” said Dr. Cyrus McEachern, who works at Vancouver General Hospital.
He said the anxiety has lessened since the start of the pandemic because of new routines and protocols, adding he also feels confident the layers of PPE are keeping them safe.
But he said it’s a double-edged sword: the eye gear, masks, face shield and gowns are necessary but they can also feel “a bit dehumanizing,” making it difficult to recognize other colleagues.
In an effort to show the public the men and women behind the masks, he decided to create a series of portraits.
Inspired by Ugur Gallenkus, a Turkish photographer he admires, McEachern took photos of his colleagues in the workplace juxtaposed by their personal lives.
“I've been reminded of just how awesome everyone is and the variety of cool personal lives they have,” McEachern said. “Everybody's got different aspects of their life that are dearest to them.”
In the series, there’s a yogi, a surfer, a dancer, a cyclist. Some people are with their loved ones, others are with their pets.
Dr. Andrea Brovender is one of the portrait subjects and said the piece showcases the weight of how she feels.
“I'm carrying my child and then I'm carrying out anesthesiology equipment and, you know, on a day-to-day basis I sort of feel like I'm carrying everything at once, all of the time,” she said.
She also hopes the photo sends an optimistic message, adding it shows the sterile workplace next to her lush yard.
“People I look after also need to go back to their very vibrant lives just the way that I get to go back to mine at the end of every day, I want them to go back to theirs.”
As for McEachern, he has created a self-portrait, one that he was initially shy to share.
Like many who have binged “The Tiger King” on Netflix during quarantine, he decided to do a parody with his beloved feline.
“It's appropriate comedic relief in this fairly stressful times. I don't normally wear like a fuzzy leopard-print onesy,” he chuckled, “and you know everybody could use a good laugh right now.”
Whether it’s to make people smile or think, he wants to show health care workers in a different light.
“It's just kind of a visual reminder that everybody working on the front line is human, and is putting their personal lives on pause to take care of you.”