The world is nearly unrecognizable. The divisions amongst us are wide and are lined with unforgiving sharp edges. I haven’t had a lot of time for social media, which is probably a good thing. I rarely share my political views with anyone, mainly because I am one of those square pegs that do not really fit solidly into either faction. In fact, I made ONE comment on our way to the polls and my husband slammed on the breaks, turned the truck around and went back home and told me to find my own ride to the poll. My husband is definitely not a square peg. This post isn’t political; it’s personal.
First things first, I never wanted to be a nurse. Nope. It wasn’t for me. Let’s face it, nursing is hard work. I am not the nurse who loves to start IVs, insert tubes, or ponder if a wound should be packed or left open to air. All the needles, bags and bodily fluids are not my passion, but the people…the people are what fuel my fire.
So here I am a card-carrying member of a profession, where I am mediocre at best, but still try and give it my all. And then along comes COVID and my universe shifted. I was not prepared. Not only was I late to the party with the run on toilet paper, I had no idea what tribulation was about to unfold.
I am fortunate enough to work in LTC communities, where most of our residents are in their golden years. They are witty, wise and full of life. They are not forgotten or overlooked; they are loved and treasured. We have care staff that shows up each shift to meet the needs of these people, which even in the best of times is a difficult and demanding job. These are not the best of times and yet they continue to come and they continue to care.
There are so many moving pieces to what is happening right now. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to his/her personal views. Knowing that I am opening the door to an onslaught of harsh criticism and opposition, today I am choosing to share my experience. We all have our own perspective. This is mine.
It was the beginning of April when I was personally introduced to Covid 19. Although we had plans in place and we had piles of PPE, it still managed to kick us in the teeth. Being tasked to keep a vulnerable population safe and healthy is a tall order when there isn’t a global pandemic raging and when there is, it is a war. Trying to battle an enemy that is ambiguous as this one is daunting—scary—formidable and just plain hard.
Since spring it has been uphill climb. Our soldiers are discouraged, exhausted, and some have even chosen not continue into battle and with good reason. Many have suffered from the virus and many still have lingering effects. There have been many beloved people that we have had to say goodbye to far too soon and that is a sorrow that is heavy. One doesn’t know just how heavy until you are the one trying to carry it around. I know a lot of amazing caregivers who are lugging around an unmeasurable amount of sorrow.
I respect everyone’s right to feel, act and think however and whatever one chooses. I don’t stand in judgement. But for those of you who feel the need to continually persecute those in the trenches I first ask you to consider what it means to do these things:
- Work 8, 10, 12, 14 or 16 hours head-to-toe in gown, gloves, 2 masks and a face shield providing care for the sick and isolated.
- Hold the hand of another human being, while she struggles for her last breath.
- Bear witness to the agony as a family says a final goodbye to loved one through a closed window.
- Peel off your clothes in the garage and sprint to the shower, knowing there is a chance that there is something lingering you could spread to those you love.
- Balance on the tightrope of keeping people safe and searching for ways to bring them human contact and moments of joy.
- Look into the scared eyes of a dear, vibrant, wise and kind soul and try not choke on the tears when he asks, “I am not going to make it out of this, am I?”
- Listen in disbelief as the masses cry ‘freedom’ and scoff that only the elderly and those with underlying conditions are impacted by the virus and try to reconcile that reasoning with all the elderly, compromised, and folks with underlying conditions who are still productive, amazing, full of life and worthy of protection.
- Swallow the news that a person whom you laughed with, cried with, danced with and fought with all your strength to lead back to health has succumbed to the shrewdness of this virus.
- Lay awake at night and question that you have done everything you could have possibly done to impede the spread, to preserve the health of those infected, to protect those who are not infected and to provide the best care for those who are sick.
- Accept defeat when you think you understand what this virus will do and what you can expect and it does another 180 and laughs in your face as you try to keep up.
- Cry silently when care providers keep showing up, even though they are exhausted, weary and scared and accept there is no way to fully express the amount of gratitude for these caring souls.
- Feel around in the unfamiliar spaces for the pieces of your heart as it breaks under the weight of this “hoax”.
These experiences are not uniquely mine, but are shared among throngs of health care providers, many to a much higher degree. My experiences are just a drop in the bucket compared to the battles others are fighting. I don’t want kudos or a pat on the back. I just wanted to share my perspective and the perspective of those who I have had the privilege to work alongside. I have learned a lot about myself during this journey and a great deal about loving others during almost impossible times. I have been fortunate that I have been able to provide care and comfort with Personal Protective equipment (PPE) supplies that have been plentiful. What I have found there to be a shortage of is EPPE (Emotional Personal Protective Equipment). There are plenty of N95 masks, gowns, gloves, and face shield to protect us and others from this virus. Yet, there my heart remains exposed and vulnerable to the pain, death, isolation, and fear this perpetuates. There is no PPE for the heart and sometimes that is the hardest part about love in the time of Covid.