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Sunday, May 9, 2021

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Ariane Luzano ('15) Ariane Luzano ('15)
 


A Face on the Front Lines

When SDSU alumna Ariane Luzano ('15) snapped a selfie during a stressful nursing shift, she never expected it would be used in Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” campaign.
By Tobin Vaughn
 

“I really do believe they prepared me for the field. SDSU’s nursing school is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life and as hard as it was I would do it again a thousand times over.”

Just two hours into her 12-hour shift, Ariane Luzano (’15) was exhausted. As a cardiovascular and thoracic nurse, assisting with lung transplants and heart failure cases usually comes with its own challenges, but she never expected what she encountered in March.

Luzano was working a travel assignment as a surgical nurse at a Bay Area hospital. She had barely started the job when suddenly everything changed.
 
“COVID-19 hits and they get really slammed,” Luzano recalled. “As a travel nurse, they move you around to parts of the hospital that need help, so I was on a COVID floor almost all the time.”

She had been following news about the coronavirus for weeks, first its effects in China, then how it ravaged Italy before cropping up in Santa Clara County near her hometown of San Jose. “I was worried from the get-go because my parents and my siblings are there and that’s when it really hit me how real the situation was,” she said.

“That was hard emotionally. The level of fear and anxiety that was there, I couldn’t deny it.”

“Let's do this”

Many times the patients she was treating would be stabilized when their conditions rapidly deteriorated. The incessant hard coughing and shortness of breath were concerning enough, but what really alarmed Luzano were the fevers that would not seem to break.

“I have been a nurse for five years and I had never seen fevers like this running 102, 103,” she said. “You can prescribe Tylenol around the clock, but they just don’t go away. I put ice packs on ice packs on ice packs on patients, watching them go a full 24 hours or two or three days running a fever and they’re scared.” So was she.

“I’m glad we have our PPEs (personal protective equipment) but being in those things, the fear manifests in the sense that you seal your gloves a little bit tighter,” she said. “You’re sweating a lot underneath it all - the masks and the goggles – you feel all of that and it’s hard.”

Yet she never missed a shift. “I showed up to work every day and when they sent me to the COVID unit, I said, ‘Let’s go. Let’s do it.’”

Courage is beautiful

So two hours into that long March shift a parched, worn-out Luzano slipped out of her PPE and paused for a quick break.  

“I’m really tired and sweaty with all these marks on my face and just glad to be sitting down and taking a sip of water,” she recalled.

“I was just thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I look like this and I have ten-and-a-half more hours to go.’ I took a selfie and posted it on Instagram and then I went back to work.”

She never gave it another thought until a representative from Dove contacted Luzano seeking permission to use her selfie in its “Courage is Beautiful” advertising campaign thanking front-line healthcare workers for their heroic work in the fight against COVID-19. Initially skeptical, Luzano agreed to participate.

Her image soon began appearing in online videos, television ads, and even bus-stop posters. Dove made donations to her hospital and to the nonprofit Direct Relief to provide protective gear and critical care medications to health workers.

Friends, former classmates and teachers, even some of her SDSU instructors have snapped photos of the ads on their televisions and sent them to Luzano, who is still somewhat incredulous about her newfound fame.

“I’m on a bus stop,” she marveled. “It’s silly but it’s kind of cool.”

“I was born for this”

Luzano credits the training she received in the SDSU College of Health and Human Services with helping her though some of her roughest moments in the COVID-19 unit. 

“The San Diego State program I went through was so thorough and so rigorous in all aspects that to this day when I have questions about things I do, I still hear my nursing clinical instructors in the back of my head,” she said.

“I really do believe they prepared me for the field. SDSU’s nursing school is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life and as hard as it was I would do it again a thousand times over.”

And the courage to face down a deadly disease? Where does Luzano find that shift after shift?

“You draw upon whatever you have to draw upon to care for that patient, including your fear and your anxiety. You know it’s there, but you have to put that away for those 12 hours and focus. You have to be able to do the job. I have to remember I was born for this. This is something I wanted to do.”

 
A Face on the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Fight
When SDSU alumna Ariane Luzano ('15) snapped a selfie during a stressful nursing shift, she never expected it would be used in Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” campaign.