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Library Of Congress Receives Health Care Workers Audio Diaries

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

In the first months of the pandemic, hundreds of health care workers across the country began recording audio diaries. They captured their thoughts and feelings as they treated patients with COVID-19.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE NOCTURNISTS: STORIES FROM A PANDEMIC")

DAN DONOHO: It's March 26 in the afternoon, finally home after a fairly long day yesterday and today.

MCCAMMON: That's Dan Donoho, a neurosurgeon in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE NOCTURNISTS: STORIES FROM A PANDEMIC")

DONOHO: Every day, when I get to go to sleep, all I think about is, did we do enough? Were we ready enough? Did I help enough people? And I'm never sure that we're doing enough.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Dr. Donoho's recordings were among the audio diaries featured in a podcast called "Stories From A Pandemic." It was produced by "The Nocturnists," which is a company that does audio stories about the medical industry. The recordings from the podcast, along with hours of unused audio, have been donated to the Library of Congress.

JESSE HOCKING: We have over 700 raw audio diaries that will be preserved and housed at the library.

INSKEEP: Jesse Hocking is an archivist with the American Folklife Center at the library.

HOCKING: These diaries are an important self-documentation that shared a rare, intimate look into the internal lives of health care workers in the moment. They capture their doubts, fears, anger, resentments, vices, insecurities.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE NOCTURNISTS: STORIES FROM A PANDEMIC")

MELISSA CHEN: Medicine, as I know it right now, is not working for these patients. And that terrifies me.

MCCAMMON: This is Melissa Chen, a nurse in the San Francisco Bay Area.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE NOCTURNISTS: STORIES FROM A PANDEMIC")

CHEN: I just feel like we're treading water and I don't know how to get them out of it. And I feel like we're still not gaining any ground. It's terrible and heartbreaking. And I don't know how we're going to come out on the other side of this.

MCCAMMON: Jesse Hocking says the audio diaries preserve the rawness of the moment, something a history book just can't capture the same way.

HOCKING: The weight of having a patient's life in your hands, as one diarist put it, it's such a horrifying privilege to be a physician these days.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE NOCTURNISTS: STORIES FROM A PANDEMIC")

KORAY DEMIR: It is 6:30 a.m. on April 4.

INSKEEP: The voice of Koray Demir (ph), a doctor in Montreal.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE NOCTURNISTS: STORIES FROM A PANDEMIC")

DEMIR: I'm, like, sort of, like, lost in this, like, trance of phone calls. Can I come see my dad? No, you can't. I'm sorry. What's going to happen? I don't know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's, like, two weeks into the pandemic, and I'm already pretty tired.

HOCKING: It's so important to get these stories told as soon as the event happens because you can't go back. They are an important time capsule that just can't be replicated.

INSKEEP: The Library of Congress plans to post the health care worker audio diaries later this year. And for now, you can hear them at thenocturnists.com.

(SOUNDBITE OF HUSHED'S "HIBERNATION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.