On the frontlines of COVID-19

Sean Swider Maryland ’18 

My pandemic story begins like so many of my peers – with a spring semester cut short due to coronavirus (COVID-19). When school closed early, I returned home to New Jersey and to my summer job as an emergency medical technician (EMT).  


Working as an EMT during this pandemic is like nothing I’ve seen before. New Jersey was the epicenter of the pandemic in the spring. I found myself working 45-50 hours a week in 12-24-hour shifts on both the fire truck and ambulance. 75% of the calls we received in March and April were related to COVID-19 and we had to treat every person we encountered as if they were infected. To say there was a high level of anxiety and fear present among us working is an understatement. There were 100,000 cases of COVID-19 and 15,000 deaths in my region during March and April. Now, the numbers have dropped significantly. We are seeing five to ten new cases a day with one to two deaths per week.  


Being on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic has given me a new perspective on life. I’ve realized just how fragile and short it can be. It’s been very humbling to see how many people in different age groups have been affected by this virus. Today, I’m striving to live each day to the fullest and make the most of my life.  


While the pandemic has given my life a new meaning, I’ve tried to convey the message of how serious this virus is to my Phi Psi brothers. In the beginning of the pandemic, some weren’t taking it seriously because they didn’t have a personal connection to COVID-19. Once I began to tell them about the patients that I saw and the seriousness of the situation, their perspectives changed too.  


My brothers have been instrumental in supporting me throughout the last few months. Many have reached out to see how I was doing while working on the frontlines or just to catch up. Now that restrictions are easing in my region, I’ve been fortunate to see a few brothers in-person though we still rely heavily on texting and FaceTime. It means the world to me knowing that I have their continued support and that my brothers are there for me through it all.

Brother Swider is starting his senior year at the University of Maryland as a criminal justice major. He plans to become a natural resources law enforcement officer or a federal agent after graduation. Swider knew at the age of 16 that he wanted to serve his community in some way. He obtained his EMT license and has worked with his local fire department every summer since.

Are you a Phi Psi in the medical field? Click here to submit your COVID-19 story.