Susan Westman

My COVID Story: Battling on the Front Lines

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Susan Westman ‘21—like so many of us—saw her life upended. A member of the rowing team, she lost not only the on-campus experience when the university shifted to remote learning, but her rowing season as well. She returned home to live with her parents in Illinois. Very quickly, she admits, the doldrums set in. “To be honest, I was just so used to having athletics, and having something to do all the time. … I was so bored.”

She would turn that boredom into a life-changing experience—and an act of public service during a time of crisis. Westman, who had previously earned her EMT license because of her interest in a possible career in medicine, decided to put her training to use. She was hired by Trace Ambulance, a private ambulance company in the greater Chicagoland area, and was then thrown into the very front lines of the battle against COVID-19. “I remember reading about Dr. [Anthony] Fauci and how, with Ebola, he actually went in to treat the patients because he said, ‘I want to show my team .... that whatever I tell them to do, I'm willing to do it as well.’ And I was like, ‘If I'm willing to be a doctor, I need to be willing to actually take a chance and interact with the virus. I can't be just scared and stay home.”

As the new academic year gets under way with the pandemic still raging, Westman offered advice for everyone in the campus community. “Wear your mask. I think it's very easy. I've [spent] the past five months going in and out of ... almost every COVID center on the South Side of Chicago, and all the hospitals, and all the nursing homes where there's 30 patients or 40 patients. And it's, it's as simple as just kind of being smart. Don't go to giant frat parties. That doesn't make sense--you're exposing yourself to so many people. There are very simple solutions and easy ways to be safe. And if we just do all those little things, we won't have big spreads.”