BATAVIA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Healthcare workers have been battling COVID-19 on the frontlines for nearly two years now.

For many, this is the first year since the pandemic began that they’ll be gathering with family for the holidays.

Alexander Chekhov is a hospitalist at United Memorial Hospital in Batavia. He said he gathered with his whole family for Thanksgiving for the first time in two years.

He said things are starting to feel normal again but he still remembers the feeling of helplessness.

“I have a lot of colleagues working in New York City so at the beginning we were hearing stories of how bad it was and waiting and preparing for that,” Chekhov said. “That’s when it became, I feel, really overwhelming and that was the only time we did not have any open beds in the hospital.”

He said the worst period at his hospital with between September of 2020 and January of 2021. They normally had 30-40 patients in the hospital but during that time they had 70-80.

“A lot of people were really scared, for the right reasons,” he said. “A lot of time was spent with the families and patients to explain what was going on, what’s going to happen.”

Something he said he’ll never forget are the names of the people who died. He said he felt helpless when he did everything he could but still lost people.

“I think the worst in our profession is to get used to it, to get used to losing people. I still didn’t, it’s still hurting me a lot.”

Every day when Chekhov went home he had a system to make sure his wife, college-aged daughters, and two-year-old son weren’t exposed to what he could’ve brought in from the hospital.

“We have a room on the side, so I underdressed completely and took a shower then I was allowed to go into the house,” he said.

Despite his caution, his daughter brought the virus home from college earlier this year.

Chekov was vaccinated but it was too early for the rest of his family to get the shot. He never caught COVID, but watched his wife and daughter battle, and defeat, the virus.

Fast forward to now, he is still treating a lot of unvaccinated patients for COVID. He said those patients regret not getting the vaccine and he urges people to get the shot.

Looking back, he said he’s proud of the work his colleagues did during the toughest times.

“I think we did well, I think everybody was working hard and did our job and I’m really proud of people working with me,” he said. “I’m a life-born optimist, I think everything will be fine.”

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.