Part of our weekly series with The Nib
on inequity in the time of pandemic.

Martha, New London, Connecticut
Interviewed April 9-25, 2020

Martha: I was one of eight kids. And my mom got very sick. I was the caregiver and I took care of her. I couldn't save my mom, so I was gonna save other people. So I became a nurse.
Narration: Martha Marx has been working as a nurse for 35 years. She travels across the city taking care of elderly and vulnerable patients in their homes.
Martha: I was going to save everybody else in this world. And I'm still trying. I'll try till the day I die. I will never stop being a nurse. Never.
Martha: My greatest fear is that I've been exposed and that I'm going to bring it to one of my patients and I'm going to get one of my patients sick. That's really, really hard.
Martha: We go into six houses a day of some of the most fragile people in our community. They told us to just wear a surgical mask for days, until it's visibly soiled. I call myself Typhoid Martha.
Narration: Martha’s sister sewed her a cloth mask to wear over her one surgical mask. 
Martha: We just got a really cheap surgical mask two weeks ago that we used for days and days. One mask. When we're done we fold it in half and you put it in the little paper bag in your car. But you only get one paper bag and it's gross.
Martha: It is bizarre. I would have been fired for doing that before. There was science. This is not what you do for infection control.
Song: “Just give me one thing that I can hold on to…”
Martha: “Angel from Montgomery,” that’s my favorite song. I was telling my kids, I want you to play that song at my funeral. 
Martha: I am out there every single day. I'm out there when everybody else doesn't even go grocery shopping.
Song: “...To believe in this living is just a hard way to go”
Martha: As a nurse, I'm feeling like I'm not flattening the curve, like I'm not helping people. I'm harming people. I've never felt like I've harmed anybody. It shouldn't be like this. It doesn't have to be like this.

Interview by Elizabeth Shogren illustrated by Thi Bui, script by Sarah Mirk and Amanda Pike.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Elizabeth Shogren

Elizabeth Shogren is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal, covering science. As part of a new initiative, Shogren tracks the real-life effects of the anti-science mentality that has seeped into many corners of the federal government. Previously, Shogren was an on-air environment correspondent for NPR’s national and science desks. She has also covered the environment and energy for the Los Angeles Times and High Country News. While at NPR, she was a lead reporter for Poisoned Places, a data-driven series about the toxic air pollution that plagues some communities because of the failure of government to implement a decades-old federal law. The series received several honors, including a Science in Society journalism award from the National Association of Science Writers. Her High Country News investigations of the federal coal program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s failure to adjust to climate change won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Top of the Rockies prizes. Early in her career, as a freelance foreign correspondent, she covered the fall of communism in Eastern Europe before joining the Los Angeles Times’ Moscow bureau. Later, she joined the paper’s Washington bureau, where she covered the White House, Congress, poverty and the environment. Shogren is based in Washington, D.C.

Thi Bui

Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1978 as part of the "boat people" wave of refugees fleeing Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War. Her debut graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do (Abrams ComicArts, 2017) has been selected for an American Book Award, a Common Book for UCLA and other colleges and universities, an all-city read by Seattle and San Francisco public libraries, a National Book Critics Circle finalist in autobiography, and an Eisner Award finalist in reality-based comics. It made over thirty best of 2017 book lists, including Bill Gates' top five picks. She illustrated the picture book, A Different Pond, written by the poet Bao Phi (Capstone, 2017), for which she won a Caldecott Honor. With her son, Hien, she co-illustrated the children’s book, Chicken of the Sea (McSweeney’s, 2019), written by Pulitzer winner Viet Thanh Nguyen and his son, Ellison. Her short comics can be found online at Reveal News, The Nib, PEN America, and BOOM California. She is currently researching and drawing a work of graphic nonfiction about immigrant detention and deportation, to be published by One World, Random House.

Sarah Mirk (she/her) is a digital engagement producer for Reveal. Since 2017, she has worked as an editor at The Nib, an online daily comics publication focused on political cartoons, graphic journalism, essays and memoirs about current affairs. She works with artists to create nonfiction comics on a variety of complex topics, from personal narratives about queer identities to examinations of overlooked history. Before that, Mirk was the online editor of national feminist media outlet Bitch, a podcast host and a local news reporter. She is also the author of several books, including “Year of Zines,” a collection of 100 handmade zines, and “Guantanamo Voices,” a collection of illustrated oral histories of the world’s most infamous prison. Mirk is based in Portland, Oregon.

Amanda Pike (she/her) is the director of the TV and documentary department and executive producer of films and series at Reveal. Under her leadership, The Center for Investigative Reporting garnered its first Academy Award nomination and four national Emmys, among other accolades. She was the executive producer of the inaugural year of the Glassbreaker Films initiative, supporting women in documentary filmmaking and investigative journalism. She has spent the past two decades reporting and producing documentaries for PBS, CBS, ABC, National Geographic, A&E, Lifetime and The Learning Channel, among others. Subjects have ranged from militia members in Utah to young entrepreneurs in Egypt and genocide perpetrators in Cambodia. Pike also has dabbled in fiction filmmaking, producing the short film “On the Assassination of the President,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She is a graduate of Princeton University and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.