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Anthoula Dimitra Pagouni disinfects a glass window in an ICU of the Sotiria Thoracic Diseases Hospital in Athens. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A cleaning worker outside the ICU entrance. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

As anyone who has spent considerable time in a hospital knows, one of the things you do most is wait. Whether it’s in bed or in a chair or on a gurney in a hallway between tests, you wait. And unless you remembered to bring a phone to tap and scroll on while you are in this kind of purgatory, you most likely are hyperaware of your surroundings, including the myriad people walking by. You might wonder who are these people, what are they doing there? And so on.

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of In Sight posts, I was recently one of those people sitting or lying around, for what seemed like forever, in a hospital. I had been having trouble breathing for a couple of years and, after I switched insurance, my new doctor ran some tests and sent me to a hospital in an ambulance.

Once I got there, the tests and the waiting began. After the sharp pain of a coronavirus test and then innumerable other tests, including ultrasounds of my legs and CT scans of my lungs, I got the surprising but possibly lifesaving news that I had blood clots in my lungs. Other tests ensued, including two oh-so-wonderful heart catheterizations. Ooof. I’ll spare you the details, but I’m glad to report that I’m finally on the road to some sort of recovery. Let’s just say the past few weeks have been life-changing.

But throughout all the tests and the waiting and the talking to doctors, one thing kept highlighting itself to me. Once the doctors and nurses were gone, there were many others playing a vital role in keeping me and my fellow patients safe. Upon further reflection, I realized that not much has been said about them, at least that I know of.

For a hospital to run and for patients like me to be taken care of and kept safe 24/7, there’s an army of people who more or less go unnoticed. For example, to get that heart catheterization, someone had to wheel me in my bed to the staging area before the procedure. Same with my appointments to have ultrasounds on my legs and echocardiograms on my chest.

And in between all of that, someone had to make sure my room was clean, that I was fed, that my bed clothes were changed. I am, of course, talking about the orderlies and the transport people and the person who came every day to ask what I wanted to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To top it off, and not to forget, these people who make sure everything runs smoothly are working doubly hard and risking their very lives in the face of a virus that has swept the globe.

They deserve recognition, something they rarely get. I haven’t seen much over the past year or even years about the role they play and have been playing. But while I was on the hunt for work to share with you, I came across this collection by Associated Press photographer Thanassis Stavrakis that documents the overlooked jobs of hospital cleaners, specifically those working in a covid ICU in Greece.

I’m thankful for this work, for showing the people under incredibly stressful situations who make sure that the small (but really very big and very important) things are taken care of so that patients like me are given the best care we can get. And although these workers are in a Greek hospital, I see in them so many of the people who made sure my room was clean and that I was fed and that I was transported to a dim room to have yet another test to improve the quality of my life. Yes, they deserve so much more recognition and gratitude, indeed.


Anthoula Dimitra Pagouni wears protective gear before entering the ICU. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Pagouni in the ICU entrance. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A cleaning worker makes the rounds. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Pagouni uses a stick to compress biohazard waste as medical workers examine a covid patient. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Cleaning worker Georgia Tsiolou outside the ICU. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A worker mops behind a covid patient's bed. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Pagouni before entering the ICU. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A worker mops as medical staffers examine a covid patient. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A cleaning worker takes off her protective gear after disinfecting. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Cleaning workers don their protective gear before entering the ICU. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A cleaning worker collects waste in a biohazard bag. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A cleaning worker, in white protective gear, collects waste in biohazard bags. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A worker mops in the ICU. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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