BATAVIA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Working on the frontlines of the pandemic has never been easy, especially during the holidays.

Shawn Strausbaugh is a physical therapist at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia and was the lone PT on the ortho floor when it was reserved for COVID patients last year.

She said she became a PT to help people but she never expected what she’s experienced over the past year and a half.

“It’s something that you just aren’t prepared for,” she said. “Some days I’d come home and I’m like, alright I made a difference today, I feel good and other days I just felt like there wasn’t much to do, you felt helpless.”

She got to know COVID patients, who were lonely without visits from family or friends due to protocols. She tried to be a bright light on their darkest days through physical therapy, and by lending an ear.

“Sometimes they were scared and they just needed to tell you that.”

Strausbaugh said she doesn’t forget any patients and some stand out.

“You’d see a younger patient sometimes or somebody that didn’t make sense that declined, declined, higher need for oxygen, you’d come in Monday morning and wonder where they were because they weren’t in the same room,” she said tearfully. “You don’t ever want to forget or not feel when you lose somebody. It’s gotta stay pertinent, make you appreciate what you have maybe a little bit extra.”

For her, that’s her family.

They couldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with the extended family last year, but she, her husband. and two kids all had COVID at the same time at Christmas.

If there’s a silver lining to that we were together which was a blessing that we could still be together on such a wonderful holiday but we didn’t see any extended which was really, really hard on my mom. We’re a very close family and that was tough.”

This year, she’ll celebrate with her mom, dad, and siblings once again.

She said it’s tough right now as the numbers are back on the rise and she relives some of the worst moments over again.

But she’ll continue to help people and honor those she lost during this time.

“We can’t let it completely rule our everyday living we just have to be more careful, make some smart choices, and think a little bit more to do the best we can for ourselves and the people around us.”

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

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