‘Working at a hospital during pandemic made me want my old job back’
For the past 11 years, Natalia Carrasco, 40, had worked as a celebrity makeup artist for clients including John Legend and “Real Housewives of New York” star Leah McSweeney. But when the pandemic hit, the East Williamsburg resident was out of work and out of cash, so she took a job as a receptionist at one of New York City’s most overrun hospitals. Now, she’s more grateful for and eager to return to her old career.
When the lockdown started in March, every makeup job I had lined up got canceled within five days. At first, I was like, ‘This will be fine, I’ll use my savings.’ Then, things got serious and I wondered how I was going to pay the bills.
I was on Facebook one day and noticed this agency was looking for people to help with COVID at Elmhurst Hospital. At that point, I was up for anything, so I applied for the job and got it.
On my first day, April 3, I saw people carrying dead bodies and I felt a huge pain in my stomach and chest. I had to go to the bathroom and cry a little bit because I never thought I would have to go through this stress and fear in my job.
It made me think about all the beautiful messages I used to get saying ‘You made my day’ after doing someone’s makeup and how lucky I was to have the opportunities I had. My life used to be filled with positivity.
At the hospital, I was assigned to answer phone calls at the main desk from 4 p.m. to midnight. I get a lot of calls from people trying to find the bodies of their family or friends. It’s shocking to hear all these broken voices and people in pain. I also have to make overhead announcements within the hospital if someone goes into cardiac arrest or has a heart attack or any other life threatening event. If I say something wrong, it’s literally life or death — and it’s very stressful.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful to have a job and I have nothing but respect for healthcare workers. But I often think to myself, ‘I went from making people beautiful and happy to being surrounded by death and sadness.” I make here in a week what I used to make in a day.
The whole experience reminds me how much I love and miss my old job and how badly I need to get back to it. I’m more grateful for it now than ever. — As told to Melkorka Licea
Read more about silver linings from the coronavirus pandemic.