It’s the question in patients eyes the sisters notice first. The look that says, how can you not remember me? In the emergency room yesterday you held my hand and told me it was going to be alright, to hang in there.
And, now, the next day, you’re walking into my hospital room and looking at me like a stranger, like we’ve never met? What’s wrong?
The short answer is they hadn’t met. That was Amanda Singer in the ER, this is Lindsay Singer, her identical twin. They’re both nurses at Providence Tarzana Medical Center — the daughters of a doctor and pharmacist. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
Amanda and Lindsay Singer, two sisters, identical twins, working as nurses at Providence Tarzana. (Photo Courtesy of Singer family)
“When we first started, it was the staff who couldn’t understand why I didn’t say hi to them when we passed in the hallway,” Lindsay says. “They thought I was being rude or just having a bad day. It took them awhile to figure out that was my sister they met and we were identical twins.”
In middle school, the girls would spend their weekends shadowing the nurses at UCLA Medical Center while their father made the rounds. They fell in love with the job. It wasn’t 9 to 5, sitting at a desk. It was constant action, on your feet, and let’s go. Prove yourself. There are people hurting out there, go help them. STAT.
Al and Lori Singer had instilled a lot of Florence Nightingale in their daughters.
The girls were graduating from the nursing program at Pierce College when they were both accepted into the one-year TIP — transition into practice — program at Providence. It’s always been difficult for newly graduated nurses to find work in acute-care hospitals, and with the current nursing shortage, the program’s a win-win for the hospital and nurses.
They both earned their bachelor’s degrees in nursing at Cal State Dominguez Hills while they worked in TIP — Lindsay in labor and delivery, and Amanda in the OR — and were just settling into their new careers in 2020 when COVID-19 hit.
Lindsay and Amanda Singer, two sisters, identical twins, working as nurses at Providence Tarzana. (Photo Courtesy of Singer family)
“I feel like it aged me 30 years,” Lindsay says today, with the confidence only a 27-year-old who hasn’t had a gray hair yet can muster.
Amanda had just switched over from the operating recovery room to ER, walking straight into a MASH unit. You made do with what you had on hand, and hoped help was on the way because in the beginning of this epidemic everybody was flying blind.
“I was terrified,” she says. “I would wash my hands in the hottest water possible. I was afraid I would give the coronavirus to my family. Lindsay and I didn’t see them for about four months.
“The COVID patients crowded the ER, and I caught the virus on the job before the vaccine was available. The hardest part was isolating from my sister to protect her.” The two share an apartment not far from the hospital and work different shifts.
“My biggest fear, and it was partly naïve, was that I’ll be okay if I get it, but I was so terrified at work that I’d give it to a patient who was immune-compromised,” Lindsay says. She eventually did catch it.
“We won’t see an experience like that in our lifetime,” Amanda says. “It was fight or flight, the ER nurses called it. For two years, our adrenaline was pumping high every day, and that’s when you learn a lot about yourself.”
You learn this is the job you were meant to have. You don’t want to be doctor or work in hospital administration. You want to be a nurse, helping deliver babies and holding a hand, if need be, in the ER.
You like walking into a hospital room and seeing that question in people’s eyes when you introduce yourself and smile. No, that wasn’t me in the emergency room yesterday. That was my twin sister.
Dennis McCarthy’s column runs on Sunday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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