By Cindy Hsu

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Our frontline workers have been fighting COVID for more than a year now, and struggling with their own issues while trying to save lives.

CBS2’s Cindy Hsu met a nurse who has been on the front lines since day one, and now she feels she needs to watch her back.

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Karen Lam is an emergency room nurse at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. She kept a video diary during the worst of COVID.

“Today is especially hard. There’s a lot of sick patients and I feel like it’s just, it’s just hard,” she said in one video from last April.

She lived with her parents in Bayside.

LINK: #StopAsianHate Resources

“I was terrified of bringing it home to my parents, especially my dad. He’s older and he’s just like my whole world,” she said.

While Karen stayed in her own section of the house, her father did get COVID, but recovered without having to be hospitalized.

At the same time she’s fighting to save lives at Jacobi, the number of anti-Asian attacks started going up across the country.

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“It’s like, am I a healthcare hero, or am I yellow peril? Like, which one am I?” she said.

“Yellow peril” is a racist term describing Asian people as a danger to the Western world.

“It’s heartbreaking, really, to think that anyone could look at me and see a threat. I mean I’m 5’1″ and 100 pounds,” Karen said.

She and her parents feel like they have targets on their backs.

“I’m a New Yorker born and raised and for the first time in my life I felt afraid on the subway,” she said. “I’ve never experienced such anxiety while waiting for the R train.”

She says everyone can help fight hate and ignorance.

“If you see something, say something and educate yourself,” she said.

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Karen says she’ll keep speaking up, and saving lives.

Cindy Hsu