Nicole Hubbard works in a Tampa, Florida, hospital as the chief nurse anesthetist and has experienced the ups and downs of working with patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. She posts regularly on Facebook to share the many different faces involved with this historic effort, from community volunteers dropping off much-needed supplies like face masks and other materials to healthcare workers who are putting in countless hours caring for the sick.
But one particular image buried in a post captured a lot of attention. On March 31, Hubbard shared a series of pictures along with words of appreciation for all the hard work happening around her. Among the pictures was one of two nurses, husband and wife, in a brief, sweet moment.
Both of them were entirely covered with personal protective equipment: face shields, face masks, head coverings, gloves and gowns. It was a tender moment between the pair that reached beyond all the PPE they wore:
The couple, Ben Cayer and Mindy Brock, soon found themselves as the subject of a viral post that quickly spread on Facebook and Instagram. Media outlets reached out to Hubbard to talk about the image which struck an emotional chord with so many.
“Everybody’s talking about the photo,” Cayer told Time. He believes people connected with it “because we’re all going through the same thing right now and it’s a symbol of hope and love.”
Brock and Cayer are both nurse anesthetists who volunteered for the hospital’s “airway team,” which means they’re placing breathing tubes in patients — a procedure that exposes nurses to aerosols from the patient’s airways.
The moment captured in the photo happened between surgeries. Their boss happened to be close by and caught the brief exchange between the two, who earlier in the day weren’t exactly seeing eye to eye.
Cayer and Brock spent their drive into work that day — Brock’s first on the team — arguing about ordinary things like household chores and what was playing on the radio. Both nurses had been feeling the tension ramp up due to the work hours, restrictions and the volume of patients.
But, in that brief moment between patients, the couple reconnected.
“All those trivial things that we were arguing about that morning, in the grand scheme of things, aren’t that important,” Brock said.
The moment captured what matters most right now, Brock told Time. “What’s important is that we stick together, we work together, and we always support each other. And not just Ben and I, but the human race right now.”