The spread of COVID-19 continues to grow nationwide, and the need for medical responders rises with it. The duty of first responders, such as doctors and nurses, is well known, but there is also a call for last responders: workers who tend to those who have passed.
The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) alerted its members that volunteers in heavily affected areas would be valuable in addressing the pandemic. Several have responded, including a student in Cypress College’s Mortuary Science program named Soraya Pitram.
“I was already packed and ready to go — I had my scrubs — and then they told me that they had sufficient staff,” Pitram said. She planned to work in New York City for two weeks at a medical center teaching hospital.
Pitram, who is in her second year of the program and works in the industry at two Orange County funeral homes, had secured the proper identification and was fully prepared. Volunteers in closer proximity, however, were selected to fill in for the NFDA’s requested two-week volunteer rounds.
“What I’ll be doing now, since I have my ID, is that I have access to all volunteer opportunities,” Pitram said. “When people’s two weeks are over, I’ll have a chance to go.”
Pitram says this is unlike other NFDA calls for last responder volunteers, such as during Hurricane Katrina, where the experience is to do recovery after a catastrophe has occurred. She says in this case, the need for last responders will ebb and flow as the Coronavirus infection curve flattens and possibly resurges.
“Honestly, with how things are going in California, I might get sent to Sacramento or LA or somewhere more populated,” Pitram said. “Who knows how long this is going to last.”