Health workers in PPE

A View from the Frontlines

At the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic stands Phyallen Chaney, a South Suburban College student and emergency room customer service registration clerk. Phyallen, a 36-year old resident of Markham, IL, is often the first face a person sees when they are walking up for a coronavirus test under the University of Illinois Hospital (UIH) Medical Center tents.

“We are truly the first line of defense because nurses can’t even touch a patient until my team enters them into the system and acquires all of the information necessary to start the process,” said Phyallen.

Surrounded by people covered in the protection of hoods and N95 masks, Phyallen has an up close and personal view about how the virus has affected the community. The testing tent is divided into two sides: one for employees and the other for the community. Both groups must have their temperatures taken and cotton swab testing.

“This [COVID-19] is something that people need to take seriously because we see every day the people who are testing positive. One fact that I want everyone to know is that this is also hitting people who are young, like in their 20’s,” said Phyallen, who has worked in the medical field for more than 13 years. “We will see a large group of that age come in for testing and many have not been changing their behaviors. Most will recover quickly from it, but the at-risk people they may have infected could have vastly different results.”

With information constantly changing, Phyallen has continued learning new procedures and protocols. There were times early on when it took days to learn if someone tested positive for the coronavirus; the results come much quicker now. She believes the increased testing and education about precautions are critical to staying safe.

“If you follow the recommendations, social distance and keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and face, you should be good. If you are elderly or have respiratory issues, please stay home until we have more advanced treatments.”

In the midst of the storm, Phyallen sees a light at the end of the tunnel and is thankful that people have responded so kindly. She and her colleagues are appreciative that the public has recognized the medical community for all their hard work, but Phyallen says she views the list of heroes as much bigger.

“I have been hearing of people who are doing random kind acts for the community or their neighbors. I really hope this brings out the best in everyone – not only now but when COVID-19 subsides.”

Phyallen, a graduate of Thornwood High School, has also been moved by the support she is receiving from her classmates and staff at SSC. “I can’t tell you how much I love this school. They make you feel comfortable and that you are not just a number. I have gotten to know the instructors and students in a real way and I can feel they care about me.”

Phyallen had to withdraw from several classes this spring as a result of her commitment to battling the pandemic. Because of the generosity of donors to the SSC Foundation’s COVID-19 Impact Fund, Phyallen will have her next classes and books paid for when she returns.

“Prior to receiving a surprise email from SSC saying that they would be able to help me, I had some sleepless nights. Thank you to my school and donors—I truly did not know what I was going to do without the extra support!”

The South Suburban College Foundation is seeking donations on #GIVINGTUESDAY to assist local students impacted by COVID-19. Donate today!