As many know who have read my writings before, I tend to be very transparent with my feelings. Being in hospice has afforded me the opportunity to witness, first hand, the rainbow of emotions that make the human existence. Today’s writing won’t necessarily have to do with hospice specifically, but, is compelled from a place of feelings much deeper than I thought possible. The Coronavirus has caused so many to re-examine their emotions, positions and just their place in humanity and I am one of those.
Let me just get this out of the way first – YES, I am scared. Not the trembling type but, the wrenching knot in my stomach scared. Through my years in nursing, I have had to race against crazy heart rhythms and flatlines – has to hold down agitated and aggressive folks who had enjoyed too much alcohol or drugs. I knew what to do. I knew the steps to take. My nursing friends would always say that I was always the calmest one and that if I panicked or was afraid, there was great reason to be. But, friends, I am afraid. Afraid because this invisible explosion of an enemy I cannot see to fight has occurred. I don’t know where it is hiding. Could it be lurking in the sneeze of a patient’s family member from across the room? Could it be on the change given back when I buy my coffee? We all just don’t know.
To be honest, it doesn’t scare me so much for myself, although, taking an immunosuppressant for arthritis puts me at an automatic disadvantage, but, I worry about my family, my friends, my patients and coworkers. Hell, I can’t lie, I worry for the check out guy at the supermarket or the UPS man or the bank teller. My gripping fear is that what if I am a carrier and spread it to someone who will suffer? This is such a profound time we are living in because worrying about the health of others has superseded the fears regarding our own. It takes just one person, one breath, one cough… and the typhoon of illness can decimate.
My role in hospice has me going into people’s homes and nursing facilities – places where there are no standard guides of practice. Sure, I wash my hands and perform the necessary patient screenings, but, the haunting reality is, sadly, we are not truly protected. A surgical mask isn’t a worthy opponent for this virus. N95 respirators are the fortified gates that protect us. But, as I noticed in Target yesterday, there are just regular folks who have them while us medical professionals lack them. Stop buying them. There are doctors and nurses, aides and respiratory therapists who are contracting the disease and dying because they do not have the proper PPE. Is that worth holding the mask and twirling it around your finger as you giggle down the aisles at Target? Which brings me to my next emotions… anger and frustration. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people complaining about how this pandemic (how many of you can say you have lived through one? Zero. So, it must be some kind of big deal) is ruining their social lives. How great will your social life be when you contract it and are on a ventilator or give it to someone’s grandmother and she dies? This is a state of emergency. Going out should be for absolute needs! Craving gummy worms from the supermarket is not a a need. Trying to hang out together because it’s your birthday is not a need. Stop being selfish and going out because your selfishness could cost someone else the ability to have another birthday.
We nurses can’t back away from danger or illness. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. Be it in a hospital, nursing home, prison or someone’s home, we go in to provide care. We must go out, there are zero questions about that. We are scared, we are worried, we are anxious and riddled with questions. Our smiles hide a swell of emotions that we try to conceal so as not to alarm anyone. But, please, we are talking care of you and your families, so help take care of us. Stay home. Wash your hands. Flatten the curve.
We are living in times that will make the history books. One day, my son might tell his grandson how we were all quarantined and schools were cancelled. How these times brought out the good in humanity but also the very worst (don’t be a tp hoarder. You will never need a case of tp but, your elderly neighbor who cannot go our might need a few rolls). If you see an emergency responder or healthcare professional, thank them. We are doing jobs that jeopardize not only our own health, but the health of our family. Same goes for grocery workers and mail carriers, pharmacists and stock folk. Smile. Thank them. It does really help.
It is ok to feel so many emotions, especially now. You don’t have to be stoic and have a stiff upper lip. Call a friend or a colleague. Let it out. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of those that need your help. Personally, I feel them all and am scared sometimes that by being honest about them that I will be judged or shamed. How can I be when others feel the same? We are not alone in the battle of Coronavirus and most definitely not alone with our feelings. We can be weak and tired – afraid and frustrated- but, there are feelings that I will welcome. The relief of seeing the number of infections dwindle. The hope of knowing a vaccine will be found. The warmth of hugging my patients again. The excitement of life returning to normal or what will be our new normal. The knowledge to never take for granted running to the neighborhood’s house for a cup of sugar.
It may get more difficult before it gets better. We may shed tears and fears may grow. There will be and end to all of this. Doctors and nurses and scientists are waging the war. We will not give up. We cannot give up. We might be scared. We might get frustrated. We might cry. We may get angry. But,our hope never wanes because we vowed to care for those that cannot care for themselves. We promised to face our own fears and dangers in order to help others. And, we are not about to break those promises and vows now.