(Note: This was initially meant to be posted on 3/31, but well … I was a little “under the weather”)
It was bound to happen. I mean, I’ll be honest … I’m not in the best of health (Oh c’mon … physician and nurses, for the most part, make THE WORSE patients). I’m overweight & hypertensive, and have seasonal asthma. Plus I’m pretty much in the same age group of most of the patients we’ve intubated.
So yeah, I’m exhibiting some of the signs of COVID-19. Fever: ✅ Chills: ✅ Cough: Mild, but ✅ Muscle Aches: ✅ Loss of Appetite / Taste / Smell: ✅✅✅ I even got the one that aren’t as familiar with … 💩 Not. Fun. 😒 I’m also having several periods of dizziness which is annoying.
Needless to say, I was NOT cleared to go into work and now have to be symptom-free (all of them) for > 72 hours before I can even make an appointment with our Employee Health clinic to clear me to return.
So I can hear the questions now. Do I have COVID-19? 🤷🏻♀️ Not sure, but likely. Did I get tested? No. Am I having difficulty breathing? No. Have I quarantined myself from Hubby? Yes 😢.
Why didn’t I get tested? Well … for one thing, it wasn’t offered. (Oh, c’mon! You didn’t actually think that The Mother Ship’s Headquarters would straight up give one to their employees?) Second of all, I’m not exhibiting the most severe symptom of shallow, rapid breathing and difficulty catching my breath. Third … I feel that there are other people who would benefit from being tested, especially given the limited number of tests that are currently available.
And let’s face it … I’ve been working at the hospital well before the COVID-19 Outbreak occurred (and specifically on the COVID-19 ICU annex) so chances are I’ve already been exposed. And what’s the treatment for COVID-19? Symptom management. So lots of fluids, Tylenol for the fever and aches, and rest. And if I should start to exhibit any shortness of breath, Hubby knows to take me straight to the ER … as THAT’S the number one thing that we see in the most severe COVID-19 cases.)
I’m just hoping that I don’t give it to anyone else … my Hubby, most importantly, as we’re in the same household.
Speaking of the hospital, I can’t tell you the latest and greatest of what’s going on in the Hospital Front (guess I need to rename this post). What I can tell you from working the weekend is this: Besides PPE, supplies are running low. I’m talking basic supplies like alcohol wipes and simple 2×2 or 4×4 gauze dressings. The hallway looks like a war zone and the Nurses Station looks like something exploded in the middle of it.
One of the new things I noticed over the weekend was the string of tablets lined up against the “paper charts” at the Nurses Station. All of them were streaming live video of many of the patients. As our unit isn’t set up to be a video-monitoring unit (although there are some rooms that have that capability). this was one of the ways that the unit came up with to monitor those patients who are in severe danger of decompensating so quickly that the hardwire monitoring isn’t enough to closely monitor them.
As it is, the Nurse-To-Patient ratio, while better than it was before this crisis, has been tough. In addition, the number of patients literally coming & going from our unit has been absolutely nuts. So, while they may be assigned to one or two “beds,” the number of patients they might get throughout their shift might vary based on transfers.
The most unsettling thing I observed this weekend was the fact that the number of overhead pages for STAT intubations severely decreased. That’s a good thing, right? No … No it’s not. What I found out was that our unit was told that we should no longer call for the STAT intubation team overhead. Apparently, it’s starting to “freak people out” due to the number of times the team is needed. So instead the team is pretty much camped out on the unit, pretty much waiting for the next patient that needs to be intubated. Before I left on Sunday, there were at least five that were done in the period of six hours.
So what do I do now? Well, for one thing … rest. I can’t tell you how exhausted I feel.
Maybe some of it is from these horrible symptoms, but I think most of it is just sheer stress and anxiety from this crisis. I can totally empathize what it’s like for the general public to be anxious. I mean, seriously … it’s being thrown at you 24/7. Now imagine having to be in the hospitals where you’re seeing a lot of the most severe cases of COVID-19. And imagine that’s ALL you’ve been seeing, up close and personal.
And finally, imagine being the type of person whose calling is to serve those that are weak and sick; who wants to be there regardless of putting your own life and your family at risk.
It’s 24/7 anxiety and stress. What if I’m not doing the best I can for this patient? What if I’m not up-to-date with all the changes that occur every hour? What if I’m not protected enough? What if I bring this home to my family? What if I become as sick as the people I’m treating … or worse, what if someone in my family does?
Believe me when I say that us healthcare workers in the front line are EXTREMELY grateful for all your love and support (I mean … I’m not opposed to Marky Mark bringing us Wahlburgers all the time 😋). We love the signs outside the hospital and the chalk messages on our sidewalks (STAY HOME, by the way … ); I even tear up at the stupid commercials I see on TV.
But there are just some things that – as caregivers – we hide from others and keep it internally. It’s our nature to try NOT to cause discomfort for anyone. So that stress & anxiety manifests in other ways: exhaustion, insomnia, constant (and sometimes illogical) thoughts running through our minds.
So if there’s one thing I can ask of you guys (besides STAY HOME): Make sure to not just send out “thoughts & prayers” to all of our caregivers (again, we still love them, so keep them coming) … but call your healthcare worker friends. Check on them to see how they’re handling all of the stress & anxiety. We’ll all probably just say, “Oh, I’m fine!” and launch into how crazy it is in the hospital. But there may be that one time that you catch us in a moment where we need to tell someone how broken down we are, both physically and mentally.
If anyone is good friends with a nurse, you know how most of us use laughter as a way to keep us grounded. We find humor in the most horrifying and/or disgusting of things. We also tend to lean on each other as much as we can due to our shared experiences. But sometimes it’s nice to talk to a friend or loved one outside of the hospital (or even healthcare, in general) who is willing to lend an ear.
And that’s what I’ve been doing with these past few posts. This is MY way of dealing with thing; my way of sorting through some of my thoughts. My way of determining whether or not I’m being overly anxious or stressed. My hope is that my fellow healthcare workers find themselves an outlet.
And now I sleep. 😴💤
UPDATES FROM TODAY:
So I totally meant to post this on Tuesday, but I pretty much have been asleep for the past few days. Last night was probably the worse night of feeling miserable. I’ve had intermittent high fevers, but last night was the highest it had been despite feeling as cold as hell. I’ve had this persistent headache that will only go away for periods of time (between Tylenol doses every 4 hours), and I think I’m way beyond just feeling exhausted from worry. I think my body has finally said, “Slow the *** down and relax.” (Sorry for the swearing reference, Mom!)
Can I just say how hard it is to relax when you can’t even sit next to the person who soothes you the most? The one that’s held your hand through the toughest moments in my adult life? It totally sucks not being able to even hug Hubby.
As it is, I’m now worried I’ve passed it on to him. He’s feeling run down and exhausted, too. Of course, I’m not sure if part of it is because he’s been Nurse Hubby for me, while also going to work in our home office every day. Either way, I’m hoping that I haven’t because … well, I will just feel so incredibly horrible.
And now, as I finally get a chance to catch up on some FB posts, I see that a lot of the Primary RNs on the unit I’m assigned to and a few of my Nurse Practitioner & Physician Assistant friends are ALSO down and out. Which seems about right, since it’ll be that critical three weeks since this area first started seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases. Thus far, none of us are critically ill (THANK GOD!), but I can only imagine what will occur to the healthcare workers in the next weeks; as I know this unit (along with the ICU’s) was the first to get hit hard with COVID-19 cases.
For my friends at The Mother Ship — along with those MLP’s, physicians, and other Allied Healthcare workers — I wish I could be there with you to support you all. I plan to be back as soon as I can!