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New comic book, ‘The Vitals: True Nurse Stories,’ features four local AHN Saint Vincent nurses during the pandemic

They don’t wear colorful costumes, or swing from the rooftops or climb tall buildings without a rope. They don’t go by catchy monikers like Captain America or Black Panther.

But every day, in communities across our nation, they do perform heroic work, often at great risk to themselves, to care for patients with a highly contagious illness.

THEY are nurses. 

In 2020, COVID-19 has swept through the U.S., impacting millions of people, leaving more than 250,000 deaths in its wake.  Throughout this time, Americans quickly realized that nurses, and their healthcare colleagues, are real-life heroes. 

They are “The Vitals.”

Allegheny Health Network (AHN) has entered into a partnership with Marvel Comics to tell the true-life stories of AHN nurses’ heroics during the pandemic. 

Their stories are brought to live in a comic book, titled “The Vitals: True Nurse Stories,” which was unveiled to AHN nurses today.

Four AHN Saint Vincent nurses are among those depicted in the comic; Maria Patino Giraldo, Laura Ditzler, Linda Gordon, and Michele Tenon.

“Throughout the pandemic, nurses have demonstrated extraordinary courage in the care they deliver.  They are critical thinkers and patient advocates, delivering high quality care.  I am in awe of their resiliency as they come to work every day, sometimes not knowing what they will face,” said Claire Zangerle, DNP, RN, Chief Nurse Executive, AHN.

“We are so proud of them, and this initiative gives us yet another opportunity to express our appreciation for their exceptional work. We anticipate that seeing themselves as real Marvel Comics heroes will provide them a moment of pride at their remarkable work during truly difficult time for our communities.” 

“Though the comic book is based on the real-life experiences of eight AHN nurses who work in the Pittsburgh area and Erie, we want to emphasize that this effort is not about any individual nurse. It is about every AHN nurse, and every AHN employee,” Zangerle said.

These comic books will be distributed throughout AHN hospitals and at recruiting events, with an e-reader available for digital distribution on

“At Marvel, we tell stories about heroes every day. But this story is special. It tells a story about our everyday heroes – the nurses and healthcare professionals working tirelessly and courageously to save lives.” said Dan Buckley, President of Marvel Entertainment. “Along with AHN, we are honored to help tell these stories, which we dedicate to the real heroes who are saving the world.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to date, more than 170,000 health care workers have contracted the virus and more than 750 have died from the infectious disease.

Nurses providing direct bedside care have been particularly at risk; approximately one quarter of health care workers hospitalized from March through May 2020 were nurses or nursing assistants. 

“COVID-19 challenges our nurses professionally and emotionally,” Zangerle said. “We know many of them are giving their best while under great stress. They are our heroes, and we are excited to honor them in such a unique way and powerful way with “The Vitals.”

“The Vitals: True Nurse Stories” can be viewed at any time by visiting