Weeks into this crisis, I still dread hearing my name called out to be assigned to the testing tent or the Covid-19 unit

What day is it? Is this real life? How much longer can this last?

Were seeing about half the number of patients in the ER that we usually do, but the work is intense. Weeks into this crisis, I still dread hearing my name called out to be assigned to the testing tent or the Covid unit. I feel those butterflies in the pit of my gut, like I used to in the moments before the whistle blew to start a big game.

This week, our hospital started cleaning our N95 masks between shifts so we can reuse them three days in a row. Thirty-six hours on one mask. Were all pretty certain this is just putting us at increased risk for contamination. But hey, at least theyll have solved the problem of the PPE shortage! If enough nurses get sick there wont be nurses at work any more in need of a mask.

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The quiet stories of contagion remain truly frightening. This week, a patient from a skilled nursing facility came in, complaining of a fever that had mysteriously resolved itself. Perhaps a faulty thermometer? The patients awareness was limited and he was only responding to his name, which made it difficult to assess how sick he really was. He showed no significant signs of distress at triage and was sent to a room immediately. Labs and a CT scan of his head came back negative, so we started making preparations for him to go home. To cover all the bases, the doctor used our new quick Covid test before sending him back. To everyones shock, the test came back positive 30 minutes later. The patient was admitted and it dawned on all of us: all the patients and staff at his nursing facility had been exposed, the medics bringing him to the hospital were exposed, the doctors, nurses, techs, radiology staff at the hospital also all exposed.

Meanwhile, some people who have been stuck at home and are apparently still not fully aware of the dangers have been rebelling by protesting lockdowns and congregating in masses. Open up the state, they say.

I, too, am tired of this vertiginous life. Im tired of not feeling safe at work. Im tired of my social interactions being limited to my family and co-workers. Im tired of my few extracurriculars involving work and my main break from work being reading the news. Im sick of living to work, rather than working to live. And Im riddled with guilt for complaining about work, knowing I have a job and millions of Americans have lost theirs. Its like a bad dream!

But I know the risk, and the damage Covid-19 leaves in its path. Stories like the one of the patient in the skillednursing facility are playing out on repeat all over the country. At this rate, and with this mindset, will this ever end? The longer this crisis drags on, the more outlandish the solutions to our problems will become. So by all means keep congregating. Perhaps the numbers of Covid infections will go up in 10 days or a month, continuing my daily nightmare and yours.

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