Each morning, Hans Arrieta wakes up at 6:30 a.m., makes coffee and looks at pictures of his wife and son as a few tears trickle down his face.
The 42-year-old maintenance mechanic at NYU Langone Hospital Brooklyn is around coronavirus patients every day and had to make the tough decision to send his family to live with relatives in Boston so he doesn’t risk infecting them.
“I just want my family to be safe,” Arrieta told The Post.
“I have never been away from my son like this before. When he was born and sleeping in the hospital with my wife I never left his side, I cut the umbilical cord, I change the first diaper, you know, he is my life.”
But he knows he has a very important job to do, so he puts on his face mask and heads back to the hospital for another day.
Behind every oxygen machine and ventilator keeping patients alive is someone like Arrieta who’s making sure the lifesaving lines are functioning properly.
He is part of a maintenance team at the hospital that works behind the scenes to make sure its exhaust system is properly filtering out noxious COVID-19 particles, water lines are free of contamination and patient rooms are equipped with everything they need to keep patients alive.
“We’re happy you know, it gets exciting, this is a great moment to do this, we’re so proud,” Arrieta, a Costa Rican native, said.
“We work in the hospital and our mission is we’re saving lives, we’re saving all this life, and that does mean a lot to me because tomorrow it can be me, can be you, can be your mother, tomorrow can be my son.”
Each day Arrieta starts by checking the hospital’s water supply to make sure it’s the right PH and is free of bacteria and contaminants.
Then he checks on the ventilation system’s filters to make sure they’re working properly and not putting compromised patients — and the rest of the hospital’s staff — at risk.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit New York, Arrieta and the rest of the maintenance team had to work around the clock to make sure the hospital was prepared, Deb McCarthy, the hospital’s vice president of facilities management services, told The Post.
“Every person who walked inside these doors are heroes,” McCarthy said.
“They walked in not knowing whether they were putting themselves or their family in danger. But they came to work, because they knew that what they were doing involved patient care and the need to help people.”
Arrieta said it’s been extremely difficult to be away from his family during this time, but seeing patients recover, and the miracles health care workers have been able to perform, motivates him to keep pushing.
“When you go to the rooms and you’ll see the patient smiling again, the family is smiling because you know, they beat the coronavirus, brings so much satisfaction to our lives,” Arrieta said.
“So all the scary parts go away, disappear and disappear totally and then start growing [into] this amazing feeling. We have to keep doing this, we gotta get through it, you know we’re essential now, we’re here, it’s not about our money, we’re going to bring our city back.”
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