Published August 25, 2020
Lizzy Rainey, R.T. (R)
Franciscan Health Lafayette
A radiologic technologist and respected painter in Lafayette, Indiana, Lizzy Rainey transforms complex medical images into what she calls “landscape anatomy.” Since 2008, her paintings have appeared on the covers of American Society of Radiologic Technologists scientific publications more than 21 times. Today, her work hangs in the Pentagon and in medical centers across the country.
My story is about fear. It’s also about hope.
I’ve been a radiologic technologist for nearly 40 years. At first, I felt confident we had a handle on this virus. I knew we could simply use our protective equipment, and it would keep us safe.
I’ve survived working with devastating diseases before: TB, HIV, H1N1, meningitis, CDIFF, strep, influenza. In the past, we always had PPE, the proper training, and the knowledge of how to keep safe.
This time, it didn’t take long to realize the world had changed overnight. Now, our protective tools are rare and guarded. For the first time in 40 years, I feel there is a chance some of us may not survive this one. The fear is very real.
My coworkers and I continue to work with first-contact patients in the ER and patients on the floors, while using the best protective gear possible. But we often have to search for it, demand it, beg for it, and even attempt to create our own.
Someone told me, “It’s like when you’re on vacation and run out of clean clothes, you wear your best dirty shirt.” But that statement offers little comfort when our lives depend on what we wear. As the days go by, more of the appropriate gear has started to become available. But not knowing when or if this situation will come to an end, or if our PPE will always be there, creates unrelenting stress for all of us.
I’ve already seen my coworkers frightened, panicked, in tears. Yet everyone has somehow found their self-control and overcome the worst of their anxiety. So far, none of my colleagues have refused to do their job, even with their very real concerns.
As a grandmother and technologist in my late fifties, working weekends in a busy hospital, I wonder when I will safely hug my kids and grandkids again. Even if they lift the social distancing order, I’m committed to keeping away from people for their safety.
I find myself counting the days of the virus incubation period every week, wondering if I will have symptoms before the week ends and I return to the ER, just to begin counting the days again.
There are no definite answers right now. My fear is real, but so is my hope. My hope comes from my faith in God, and I also paint. Yes, I paint my feelings and that brings me great hope. I’ve been painting portraits of my hospital colleagues and other technologists in their protective gear. Not necessarily portraits praising the individual but demonstrating the spirit of the job.
The paintings show them in the midst of the crisis, working in Indianapolis, Indiana’s Methodist Hospital, draped in protective gear. One painting captures a moment after the successful completion of a dangerous procedure at my hospital, Franciscan Health in Lafayette, Indiana. My colleagues strike a pose, smile, and flash a peace sign. All this while enjoying the job. I hope, through my paintings, you can feel their compassion, purpose, and, yes, hope—even through the fear we feel every day.
The opinions expressed in InPractice magazine are those of the author(s); they do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or position of the editors, reviewers, or publisher.
Lizzy Rainey’s essay and paintings are shared in collaboration with the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the premier professional association for the medical imaging and radiation therapy community. With more than 157,000 members, ASRT has a profound commitment to the ongoing support and advancement of radiologic technologists.n