A mother and daughter who are nurses in the same hospital are fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic together on the front lines.

Cindy Pascalo, 60, has been a registered nurse (RN) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for 39 years. Her daughter, Jessica DeBrocke, was inspired to get into the medical field after watching her mom throughout her childhood.

PHOTO: Jessica DeBrocke says her mom Cindy Pascalo inspired her to become a nurse.
Jessica DeBrocke
Jessica DeBrocke says her mom Cindy Pascalo inspired her to become a nurse.

“She blatantly told me that you should be a nurse because you’ll always have job security,“ DeBrocke joked. “But it was always really exciting to see how excited she was when she came home and tell stories about great things that happened.”

DeBrocke took her mother’s advice and followed her footsteps. In 2010 she became an RN at the same hospital.

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Pascalo, who works as a code nurse in the medical intensive care unit, and DeBrocke, who works as a heart failure coordinator, normally don’t cross paths much at work. However, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the hospital has pulled people from their normal roles to expand its efforts in the ICU. Now, the mother and daughter work together daily.

The coronavirus pandemic has been grueling on many health care workers throughout the country. Pascalo says some nurses at her hospital are being asked to work five, 12-hour shifts a week and that nurses walk 10 to 20 miles on each shift.

Not only are the demands physically exhausting, but emotionally draining as well. Pascalo says many of the nurses have to stay by their patients' sides for their last moments, knowing that their family is unable to say goodbye.

PHOTO: Jessica DeBrocke says it’s nice to have her mom Cindy Pascalo for support while fighting on the front lines of COVID-19.
Jessica DeBrocke
Jessica DeBrocke says it’s nice to have her mom Cindy Pascalo for support while fighting on the front lines of COVID-19.

“It’s helpful to have someone that understands it,” DeBrocke said. “I have someone that really gets it. It’s been very helpful to have a family that gets it, just for mental health-wise, to be able to talk about how you’re feeling.”

Pascalo says working alongside her daughter during this pandemic has been helping her get through this difficult time as well.

“Sometime we talk each other off the ledge,” Pascalo said. “I’ll see something one way and she can slide in more perspective to things I’m saying. It’s just a give and take both ways for us. We do that for each other all the time.”

Not only has working in the ICU together throughout the coronavirus pandemic brought them closer, but they’ve also learned things about each other.

“I’ve learned that she has a fantastic attitude about things,” Pascalo said. “I am shocked at the lengths she will go through to make people feel comfortable. She’s a super kid.”

PHOTO: Cindy Pascalo has worked as a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where her daughter Jessica now works with her, for 39 years.
Jessica DeBrocke
Cindy Pascalo has worked as a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where her daughter Jessica now works with her, for 39 years.

DeBrocke says she has been worried about her parents becoming sick due to coronavirus, but her mother’s constant reassurance has helped ease her mind.

“I’ve definitely learned that she stays very calm through everything,” DeBrocke said. “She’s like, ‘It’s going to be fine. We’re going to do this.’”

When they’re working together, Pascalo and DeBrocke will often tell patients they’re mother and daughter.

“A few weeks ago she came in to help me with a patient who was having a hard day and I was like, ‘Hey, this is my mom!’” DeBrocke said. “Just to see how excited patient got – it’s fun that she thinks it’s so fun. It made me bond closer to my patient.”

Pascalo and DeBrocke say they’re not only thankful for the support they are giving to each other during the pandemic, but the support they’ve been receiving as health care workers from the community. DeBrocke says she cried driving home the first night she saw Chicago residents clapping outside of their apartments at 8 p.m.

“The world is so grateful and we’re humbled by it, but also this is our life,” Pascalo said. “This what we chose to do and we do it every day.”

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