News from the Hospital Front: Nurse DOWN

(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. 😴💤



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!

News from the Hospital Front: Just Enough Time To Take a Breath

[Hi Bloggie Friends; who likely stopped visiting my little corner of the world, since I haven’t written *anything* over the past two years. Not that I haven’t been writing, I just have been venting on FB instead. I will try (once again) to be active in writing here, too.]

Finally. A day off to unwind a bit; if only to surround myself in silence so that I’m not completely overstimulated with all the noise and activities on, what I’ve been deeming my unit as “COVID Central.” Not that it’s the unit that has the most or the sickest of the COVID+ patients … it just happens to be a centralized unit in the hospital and the first of the (now) 10 units to be designated at a COVID+ unit.

The activity on this unit is nothing I’ve ever seen before. For my healthcare friends, the closest thing I can compare it to is when the CPR team is dealing with one patient on your unit … and then the back-up CPR team gets called for *another* patient down the hall. So. Many. People.

And the noise … if anyone has ever spent time visiting a family member in the ICU on a ventilator, you’d recognize the sound a vent makes to alarm the RN or Resp Therapist. Having spent a significant time at the bedside with my Dad & my Aunt, that alarm is embedded in my memory so much that I experience PTSD whenever I hear that sound. I suppose that I’m assigned to the wrong unit, if that’s the case. And yet, here I am … not wanting to be Any. Place. Else. (Except home, of course. With Hubby & the one-and-only Kirby Krackel)

Anyway … As I mentioned above, The Mother Ship has now converted a total of 10 units specifically to treat COVID patients. And yes, they are utilizing other areas of the hospital (ORs and Pre-op / Recovery Rooms) to accommodate patients. Our number of COVID+ patients continue to climb on a daily basis, doubling or sometimes tripling over a 24 hour period. And we are trying to discharge patients home as soon as we can to keep beds open.

This is definitely standard news fare; things you’ve likely seen on the news or read online or in the newspaper. What it’s *not* really saying is that the Metro Detroit area has now hit that “Third Week” stage. This is when patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks ago are likely to require critical ICU-level care. This is when we will see that initial increase in number of patients requiring ventilators to keep them breathing.

And the thing is, when patients get to that third week … it hits them HARD: We’ve seen so many patients go from walking & talking to needing to be intubated in a matter of minutes.

To give you an idea, a “normal” (pre-COVID-19) day at The Mother Ship, we may hear an overhead page for a STAT intubation about once or twice a day. Yesterday alone, we heard FIVE of them before 2 pm. That doesn’t even include the number of *anticipated* intubations that occur at bedside; the ones where we see patients decompensating before our eyes. So yeah … though I don’t have exact numbers, the number of patients requiring breathing assistance continues climb, despite all of us trying to flatten that curve.

With all that, this day off came at a good time. First of all, I needed that breather (ha ha … pun *intended*) before heading into my assigned work weekend. And second, this is giving me the time to say THANK YOU for the overwhelmingly positive responses I received from my post the other day. All the love I received was passed on to all my coworkers and peers throughout the hospital and … believe me when I say that we are SO HUMBLED by your responses.

I truly didn’t realize that it would make the impact that it did (although, I suppose that the rest of the nation has a little more time on their hands to actually read & scroll through FB). From that one post alone, I’ve had a few friends in the Healthcare Industry reach out to me to inform me of nursing facilities that were working on providing rehab beds for COVID+ patients.

I’ve had home care agency contacts call me to let me know that they’re staffed and ready to take on patients. I’ve even had an owner of a group home reach out to me to see what could be done if the need to find placement for these patients becomes overwhelming (shout out to Vicki!)

In addition, I’ve had some of you ask what you can do to help out. The number one thing you can do is STAY HOME and keep a healthy SIX FEET away from the non-household person next to you when out in public.

With the weather becoming nicer (well, some days anyway), I know kids will want to go outside and play with their friends. While I *love* that kids are outside (rather than inside watching TV all the time), right now, it’s much SAFER to play outside only with other members of your household (as long as they’re not COVID+, of course). Better yet, have them read a book (sorry, I’m a bibliophile) or play board games with them. Or hey … have them invent a new game!

I know it’s been drilled into everyone’s head; however, I can’t emphasize *enough* that the only way to contain the spread is to NOT leave your home. It’s annoying and I totally get the “I’m bored” part, but the longer society continues to ignore or disregard this request, the LONGER WE WILL BE SELF-ISOLATED.

But, while you’re at home, consider other ways you can help others. Obviously at the hospitals, we’re in desperate need of PPE and other medical equipment. But I’m pretty sure none of you have a spare ventilator lying around your home … so if you’d like to donate supplies (masks, eye shields, disinfectant wipes, etc), you can alway reach out to your local hospital to determine which supplies they REALLY need and where you can drop off or ship these donations.

Outside of the hospital, think of other healthcare related facilities or agencies that may need PPE as well: Nursing homes, group homes, home care agencies … they all have healthcare workers that are also being exposed to COVID-19 as well.

Consider delivering meals or groceries to those elderly patients that cannot get out — or rather, SHOULD NOT get out — of their homes. You don’t have to be in physical contact with people when delivering; you could always arrange a drop off on their porch.

Again … I can’t tell you enough how much ALL OF US HEALTHCARE WORKERS appreciate your love, prayers, support, donations, etc. But remember, there are also others out there that also need this as well. Yourself included.

Take care of yourself and your love ones. Try not to focus on things beyond your control. Stay healthy both mentally and physically.

And now … I nap.