News From The Frontline: Thoughts on the Past 12 Months

It’s been a year since COVID first hit Southeast Detroit. I remember clearly, only because Hubby & I – at that time – were at St. Andrews Hall for a Howard Jones concert (yes, I’m an 80’s new wave chick).

Also, that afternoon at work, the other Case Managers and I noticed a LOT of staff up at the front desk for what we though was an impromptu staff meeting. The next day, we would find out that this particular unit (of which I was assigned to) would be the dedicated COVID floor. Within 10 days, this floor would later become an ICU-Annex for the overflow of COVID cases.

Anyway at this concert, HoJo announced to the crowd (it was actually pretty packed) that the US had officially closed its borders from any person entering or leaving the country. Poor HoJo (who lives in the UK) stated, “Well, I guess you’re stuck with me for a while.”

The next morning, was a blur – not only because I was tired – (getting old sucks), but it seemed like our world turned upside down. It was mass confusion, as we were beginning to get more and more COVID cases. There were lots of questions about PPE and who gets to where them. How do we begin to transition the other non-COVID patients of our unit? How many COVID cases are we expected to get? What are ever-changing guidelines for treatment?

But despite the confusion, I would say that within 10 days we had mostly adjusted to the flow of things. I say “mostly” because how does one get “adjusted” when several patients were being emergently intubated (places on a vent) and/or performing CPR to our patients, sometimes simultaneously? This continued to be the case until early May 2020, when there were less admissions for COVID.

At that time, I hesitated to say to other non-healthcare-related people, that we were “done” with this massive wave of acute COVID cases. And sadly, after Memorial Day and Independence Day, those numbers began to rise once again. I forewarned those who thought it was “over” (or in some case, didn’t even believe that COVID existed) that we were no way done with this virus.   

I correlate that the decrease in hospital admissions for COVID in late April for happened for two reasons:

  1. There were guidelines (kinda sorta) for diagnosing and treating COVID, which meant that the hospitals only admitted those COVID patients that had COVID-related acute respiratory failure (ARDS) / pneumonia or other life-threatening events related to COVID symptoms. And,
  2. People believed it was safe to return to “normal.”

That same belief has happened time and time again (after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving through January of this year). People thought it was “safe” and masks and social distancing weren’t necessary at anymore. In fact they were happy the Stay-At-Home restrictions were lifted if only to gather with friends in person, go out to restaurants, and shop.

And I get it. I wanted to do the same. And I had gone into restaurants and occasionally met with some friends in the evenings. I felt so cooped up that I just wanted to be out of the house for more than a half hour at a time. It also didn’t help that, as an essential worker, I had continued to go to work.

I also understand the economic crisis due to COVID; how bad small businesses and restaurants got and how many of them had to furlough employees and/or close their business. It saddens me that some of my favorite places to go (ahem – bookstores, cafes, etc) do not allow any person to linger in the store / restaurant for too long.

It’s been a year and a lot has changed in this world. I always hear from others that they wish that things could return to normal; my usual response has been, “What if this IS the new normal?”That is the reason that we need to keep up the fight; why we need to wear masks (double-up!*) and continue to practice social distancing, EVEN IF THE RESTRICTIONS ARE LIFTED. And when you are offered the COVID vaccine (whichever one that is available), you should receive one. That said, I do believe that the events that have occurred over the year and these first months of 2021 has everyone not only exhausted from COVID, but also anxious about the fall-out from certain (non-COVID-related) events that have occurred over the past 12 months: #BLM, the 2020 US General Election, the insurgence on the Capitol on January 6th.

Add COVID-19 in the mix, well … it’s no wonder that many people turn to non-constructive or destructive behavior. More alcoholics and other addicts have reverted to their old behaviors; illegal narcotic use has increased dramatically. The rate of depression has skyrocketed over the past year. Not to mention  the PTSD that front-line workers experience, but still continue to go to work despite it all. We shouldn’t forget those experiencing Long-Term COVID, as well. Trust me; I’ve experienced PTSD*** and Long-Term COVID episodes first-hand.****

In any case, I’m just writing here to tell you my experience with COVID over the last 12 months. Like most people, COVID remains a central part of their lives. For me, it’s work (though I now work for a different health system, thank goodness). And anxiety & depression. Don’t worry, though. I’ve been receiving treatment for both.

Please know that if you are experiencing ANY of these feelings, it is COMPLETELY NORMAL. However, if it limits your ability to function at home and work, it is COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE to ask for help. It doesn’t mean seeking out professional services. It could simply be reaching out to your best friend, your spouse, or me. I’m always good ear for others (must be an RN thing).

I’ll stop with that statement. Besides, this is yet another lengthy post (#SorryNotSorry). I wish everyone health and happiness. And love. You can’t have enough love in this world.  

PS. Like my “Emily The Riveter” pic? 😂 #HailToTheFrontLine 💙💛

*Studies have shown that wearing two masks at a time (one being “medical grade) can help in preventing the spread of any of the COVID-19 variants out there. And they are out there. Right now. In Michigan.

** Unless you’ve experienced a severe allergic reaction to the contents of the any of the vaccines, both in the past and after receiving the first of 2 doses of the vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna)

*** Long term COVID symptoms I’ve experienced include brain fog (can’t recall activities that I’ve done or need to do), anomic aphasia (word-finding difficulties), and rashes to the skin.

**** PTSD incidents began to occur for me when both Hubby & I got COVID; especially when Hubby required hospitalization and *barely* squeaked by with NOT having to go on the vent

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