Insights from a Girl Who Knows Better
Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Belittled. Mocked. Contaminated. Doubted. Unimportant. Sacrificial lambs… Nurses went from Hero to Zero in 3 months. Before the “Political Agenda” went viral, nurses were seen as heroes willing to put themselves at risk to help save the lives of all patients, including those with COVID-19. We were hailed as some of the most insightful, caring people on the planet. We received calls from friends and families asking for our professional opinions. We had people stopping by for house calls and assessments. We were respected. Who would have thought that all of that would change the minute we asked you to wear a mask? A mask. A stupid mask. Why is there so much doubt over the efficacy of masks? Five months ago, if your surgeon would have presented herself to you before your surgery and proclaimed that she and the rest of the OR staff weren’t going to wear masks during your operation, you would have cancelled your surgery. You would have said that they were putting your health at risk by not wearing face coverings while they were cutting you open. You would have reported them to hospital administration and the department of health. But the minute a politician tells you to wear one in the interest of infection control, a mask is no longer something to keep you safe. That politician asked you to wear a mask because the medical community urged him to do so. That little mask is the answer to reopening our economy. Unfortunately, a mask has now become an area of contention. A mask is now a way to control you. A mask is now an infringement upon your constitutional rights.
How many laws are already in place for the greater good? Driving while intoxicated…Seatbelts…Vaccines…Attending school as a child…Catalytic converters… The list could go on and on. But wearing a mask during a pandemic seems to have pushed everyone over the edge. All of these stupid, fake articles on social media have turned everything upside down.
If I hear one more proclamation that the death rate isn’t high enough to warrant all of these precautions, I might scream. There are fates much worse than death. This virus is taking away people’s lives even if they aren’t dying. I know a 20-something RN that contracted COVID while caring for patients. Yes, they are alive, but they now need a lung transplant. Of course, they will never get one because many of you think that every single death is being counted as COVID-related and thus there will be no applicable donors from which to get the lungs. (People with infectious disease cannot donate their organs.) Do you see how ridiculous that sounds?
Every day I read posts about people refusing to wear masks. The interesting thing is that soon after, the same person is posting about a medication their doctor has placed them on for blood pressure or cholesterol. Why is the medical community trusted on one hand but not the other? It is truly maddening.
I wish that politicians were able to stay out of the business of healthcare, but they can’t. We cannot rely on the decisions of our fellow citizens to keep us safe. Apparently, it isn’t enough to know that YOU wearing a mask can prevent ME from getting sick. That just seems so selfish to me. I would personally do anything that I could to keep you safe. I love my fellow humans. I used to love being a nurse. These days it seems harder than it should. My face is tired of being covered at work. I can’t speak. No one can hear me or understand what I am saying. I cannot truly make that human connection that I so crave through my practice. It’s difficult to assess my patients because I cannot see their faces. I now have to act as sole emotional supporter for my patients. (They don’t have their family at the bedside, reassuring them, supporting them.) Nurses are the ones filling in those gaps. We are being pulled at from every angle while at work. We have to wear gowns that are essentially shower curtains with ties. We sweat all day. We have doctors that won’t enter patient rooms because they don’t want to be exposed. Nurses don’t have that option.
After work, it is impossible to escape the backlash from our acquaintances, friends, families, and the media. Everyone knows more than we do. Everyone is now a nurse, a doctor, an epidemiologist, a fact-checker, a protestor, a lab technician…everyone knows a friend of a friend that got a positive test result but was never tested. (Insert eyeroll) On that note, please let me inform you that people are absolutely still dying of cancer, heart attacks caused by cardiovascular disease, trauma, and strokes. No, the medical examiners aren’t padding the data by labeling all deaths as COVID. That is completely ludicrous. If they were, can you imagine how high the death rate would actually be? There are roughly 8,000 deaths each day in the US alone. That would be approximately 1.2 million deaths since March caused by COVID in the United States. I urge you all to try to find a balance between conspiracy theories and truth.
People want definitive answers about this virus. The sad thing is that we really don’t have any answers. We don’t know how to treat it. We don’t know what the final repercussions will be for those who have contracted it. We don’t fully know how to prevent it from spreading. The important thing to know is that we are working around the clock trying to figure it out. Please be kind to us during this grueling process. It is personal to us and it is personal to us because we are living it. While you are sitting at home wasting your days on social media reading conflicting articles, we are watching this all unfold first-hand. While you are worrying about a face-covering, we are watching people suffer with each breath like a fish on the banks of a river. It is not a hoax. It is real. Please be patient with us. We will figure it out. Until then, my prayer for you all is that you keep yourselves safe. My prayer for you is that your only contact with COVID is through your social media platforms.
Sorry to infringe upon your constitutional rights. I just wish you would wear a mask…But hey, if you don’t and you end up as one of the critically ill, so be it. Guess who will be there to hold your hand through it, pray for you every day, and do everything in their power to give you the treatment you need to survive…Your Nurses.
“Nurses should chart in the patient rooms. Nurses should leave the computers at the desk for the doctors. We need to limit their (Doctors’) exposure.” -ER Doctor
“For the first time in my career, I’m not proud to say I am a nurse. I feel belittled and mocked.” - RN
“Healthcare professionals are not alarmists- We don’t want you to get sick.” -RN
“You’re afraid of a virus so you want me to wear a mask?” -Anonymous
“It’s none of your business if I wear a mask or not.” -Anonymous
“Wake up people. Masks aren’t filtering the virus. The particles are too small.”- Anonymous
“I have never hated being a nurse until now.”-RN
For the past few months I have been reading and listening to everything I have been able to get my hands on in regards to COVID-19. I have read medical studies, looked for trends in lab results, listened to doctors, and literally have learned everything I can learn from reliable sources. Having said that, I am no expert on this crazy virus. I still have so much to learn, we all do. The one thing that I keep coming back to over and over again is the complete division it is creating in our world. People are angry. People are scared. People are confused. People don’t know where to turn for the answers. From speculations that numbers are skewed to the government wanting to microchip everyone, the conspiracy theories are running rampant.
I have watched so many videos that were uploaded to the internet…videos in which people pose as experts and make claims that play on people’s emotions. A few days ago I watched a video where a “nurse practitioner” (she didn’t give her name) said that her friend, a “nurse” (she didn’t give her name, either) said that the hospital she worked at (she didn’t give the name of that hospital) was just letting patients lay there and die…she claimed that they were “murdering” patients. She said that the hospital was refusing to give life-saving medications (surprise, she didn’t tell us which meds) and other treatments (again, no specifics given) and that patients were so critical and that the doctors weren’t even bothering to gain consent for emergent procedures. (Newsflash- in an emergency, doctors don’t have to gain consent, they do what is right for the patient) I also watched the hour-long video where two doctors claim that this virus is no worse than the flu. (Pretty irresponsible for them to do this…especially because they can be immediately discredited by the facts that their urgent cares were failing due to the stay-at-home order and thus they had financial ruin in their immediate future, not to mention that one of the doctors isn’t even a Board Certified Physician) However, so many people gave them 100% credit because they are doctors. Why? Because those doctors were saying what so many of us want to believe. None of us want to be social distancing. None of us want to wear masks. None of us want to believe that a virus could take out hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. None of us want to be inconvenienced in any way whatsoever. That’s why it is so easy for us to listen to the naysayers regarding COVID-19. Yesterday I watched the video of some attention-seeking doctor that was essentially kicked out of the medical community for falsifying studies and tests. The sad thing is that people are actually believing what she says. In my eyes, she is a waste of good, clean oxygen. People who knowingly place others in harm’s way are literally doing the devil’s work for him. She is no better than a drunk driver. (I am also a little creeped out that she looks like Carole Baskin.)
I have heard people saying that most patients aren’t “that sick” and that this virus is no worse than the flu. This is partially true although it is much worse than the flu. But wow. Just wow. When they are sick, they are SICK. I have been a nurse for longer than I would like to admit. I have always worked in inner-city ERs that see thousands upon thousands of patients each year. I have only seen a handful of influenza patients that are as critical as the “sick” COVID-19 patients we are taking care of. IT IS NO JOKE. Pronating patients who are on the ventilator? What kind of madness is this? It is bad, people. I cannot tell you with enough passion…THIS VIRUS IS REAL. I can also tell you that hundreds of thousands of people are walking around with CHF, COPD, and countless other diseases. Those people are living full, productive lives. If they contract COVID and die from it, THEY DID NOT DIE FROM CHF OR COPD. THEY DIED FROM COVID. If it weren’t for COVID, they would still be leading productive lives with their underlying health conditions. I just don’t understand the disconnect with this subject. I do know that when you make light of this virus, it feels like a slap in the face to those of us dealing with it in our lives. Whether it be medical professionals or loved ones of those who have succumbed to the virus.
I am also a little tired of hearing how Bill Gates is responsible for this virus and that it was released from a lab so that he could make millions from the vaccine…or microchip us…whichever version you want to believe. (or maybe both?) I don’t know if you guys realize this but Bill Gates is a capitalist. He is a brilliant mind who has served himself well. It is no surprise that he might seize the opportunity to invest in something that might bring him millions of dollars in revenue. Why is that a bad thing? The virus is real. We need a vaccine. We need someone to fund the research behind the vaccine. I really don’t care how it gets here as long as the vaccine gets here. Vaccines don’t cause autism. Vaccines save FAR more lives than they cause harm. You don’t want the vaccine? Fine. Don’t get the vaccine. I don't think the government should mandate this vaccine. I am actually thrilled about how many people are now on board with "MY BODY, MY CHOICE". (I have been arguing this point for decades.) Let me repeat myself...Get the vaccine or don't get the vaccine. But you can bet your bottom dollar I will get it, my husband will get it, my children will get it…hell, even my dog will get the vaccine if the DOCTORS and their PEER-REVIEWED RESEARCH says we will benefit from it. And guess what? That beautiful vaccine will allow me to doff that PPE for one final time in regards to this god-forsaken virus… I. CANNOT. WAIT.
Moving on to censorship…Yes. YouTube and Facebook have removed several videos that “don’t meet community standards.” This has people in an UPROAR. Is this censorship? Maybe. The disconnect comes into play when you consider that both of these are companies owned by people and not by the government. The videos they are taking down are videos in which people are posing as “experts” and influencing those of us who aren’t sure where to turn. They are preying on our fears and our lack of knowledge. They are speaking to us in terms we can understand. They are saying exactly what we want to hear and we are collectively giving them their 15 minutes of fame. I pose this question to those of you bothered by the removal of their videos… Which side of the argument were you on when a private business owner refused to bake a cake for a gay couple who was getting married? For me, that was a hard one. While I support a business owner’s right to operate their company as they see fit, I do not support discrimination. I also find it ludicrous that anyone would want to provide revenue for a company that doesn’t support their personal beliefs. (Disclaimer: I fly my rainbow flag high in the sky.) Don’t like the fact that FB and YouTube remove videos? Remove yourself from YouTube and Facebook. Quit supporting a company that you don’t feel supports your right to free speech. I mean in all honesty, both of those platforms are robbing us of true-life experiences anyway. We scroll through social media and watch videos in lieu of spending time with those we love. We are wasting precious time and there is no one to blame but ourselves.
I don’t know where we will all end up after COVID-19 is finished with us. What I do know is that I applaud those of us who have given pause to all of this governmental control. There have definitely been negative impacts from the shutdown. Companies are failing and families are suffering financially. It is horrible. I do, however, think it has truly helped us to better prepare for the impact of this virus. We have learned more. We understand better how to care for the critically ill. We have since learned that this virus isn’t airborne transmission and is instead droplet transmission. (WHEW) We are more aware of infection control in general which makes me happy. I am also happy that we are reopening our state. I hope that we can do so with caution and intelligence. The truth is that COVID-19 is here to stay. We cannot stay shut down forever. But let’s take this opportunity to make a commitment to each other…Let’s take this opportunity to be better, to do better, to communicate better, to seek understanding better, and to look to actual experts for guidance. Yes, you can get lost in all of the speculations but that is exactly what they are…speculations. I for one hope I can look back on all of this and be forced to make a public statement regarding how wrong I was about the severity of this outbreak. I don’t think that will be the case but I assure you….No piece of humble pie will have ever tasted so sweet.
This is the calm before the storm. We are on Day 20 since the area’s first case of COVID19. Our emergency department has been working diligently attempting to get into a new routine. PAPRS and gowns...wear this mask today but not tomorrow...hold onto this mask for 7 days...it’s airborne...it’s droplet...it needs a negative pressure room...a neutral pressure room is fine...did the patient travel recently?...travel no longer matters...did the patient have fever?...not everyone has fever...the list goes on and on...
One of the funny things about trauma nursing is the fact that we are always there at the beginning of a crisis. We swoop in like a swarm of bees, working together in critical situations. We can literally start IVs, calculate critical medications, put tubes in every orifice… all within minutes…sometimes even seconds. What we do can literally determine whether a patient is given a chance of survival or not. We are irreplaceable. We are fierce. We are masters of time manipulation. We are all of those things and all of those things are imperative in the beginning of a crisis.
Moving forward, patients are often rushed off to the OR and then the ICU where they will spend weeks healing. It is during those weeks that the patients and their families form a bond with their doctors and nurses. They don’t really think about the ER and what happened there. Most likely, the patients don’t even recall being in the ER. Their families don’t either. You can’t really blame them. People are in shock in the ER. The patients are in shock… The families are in shock…
When a trauma makes the news, you will hear the patients and their families thank the first responders, the doctors, and the ICU nurses. Rarely is the ER even mentioned. I often joke and say that the ER is like the ugly girl in the movie who decorated for the prom but didn’t get invited to go. It’s sad but true.
Having said that, you should know that ER nurses are built a little bit differently than most people. For the most part, we don’t need recognition. We do our jobs because we love it. We do our jobs because it’s our passion.
Today, I watched in awe as someone near and dear to my heart was being discharged from the hospital. I think I have been holding my breath since the day they were admitted. The nurses who cared for that patient didn’t need pomp and circumstance. They didn’t need to be remembered. What they needed was to see their patient live…and that’s exactly what they got.
Today, when you came to me after being involved in a motor vehicle collision, I was there for you. I made sure you were going to make it. I followed my algorithms, I started your IVs, I pushed your bed to CT scan…I wasn’t thinking of me, I was thinking of you.
Today, when you had lost so much blood and were still bleeding, I was there for you. I made sure your bleeding stopped. I monitored your blood pressure and your labs. I transfused so many units of blood. You were so grumpy, but I didn’t lash out. You smelled so bad, like rotten flesh, but I didn’t leave your side until after I pushed your bed to the OR and handed the baton to another nurse that would continue what I had started. I wasn’t thinking of my father, I was thinking of you.
Today, when you had been driving a car that was smashed by another, I was there for you. While you were laying there in pain from injuries that could potentially take your life, I bent down and I told you it was going to be okay. I watched as your blood pressure dropped and notified the doctors. I didn’t waste time, I ordered your blood, the blood that you desperately needed. I held the hand of the doctor who was learning to be a doctor and told him what we needed to do. I knew we had to act quickly, with not a minute to spare. I wasn’t thinking of my mother, I was thinking of you.
Today, when you were alone after almost a century on this planet, I was there for you. When other patients needed me, I took one look at you and knew how sick you really were. I made paramedics wait for me to take over their patient until I knew you had the care you needed. I stayed in your room, collecting the pieces to the puzzle because I didn’t believe that you were over-medicated. I knew you were on the verge of sepsis. I knew that at your age you wouldn’t be able to wait the 2 hours it would be before I could return once I had left. I respected you for being my elder and for being gifted with so many years on this planet. I wasn’t thinking of my sister, I was thinking of you.
Today, when you had left so much of your flesh back at the scene of your crash and you were writhing in pain, but scared and wanted your family, I was there for you. I called 5 different phone numbers on a wild goose chase but didn’t stop until I found your mother. When she arrived, I hugged her and I held her and I told her you would be fine. I made sure you both had the emotional support you needed. I wasn’t thinking of my second family, I was thinking of you.
Today, what you didn’t see was the text that I received from my mother at 1258. What you didn’t taste was me choking back the bile from my urge to vomit as my heart broke. You see, in that text, I found out that my “second dad” was found dead in that very moment. What you didn’t hear, was my screams inside of my own head saying, “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO”. What you didn’t feel was the pain in my chest knowing that the people I love, MY PEOPLE, were 6 hours away. What you didn’t know, is that in that very moment, at 1258, my world had changed forever. What you couldn’t know is that today, the whole world became a little darker. Jokes won’t be as funny because he won’t be here to tell them. Fish will never be quite as big because he won’t be here to catch them. Mischief will be lonelier because he won’t be here to instigate it. His wife will be second-guessing herself for years, wondering if anything she could have done would have made a difference and how she can ever move forward without him. His daughters will feel a little lost wondering what “daddy” would have told them to do when their life is in a slump or how happy he would have been to see them in times of great joy. His best friend will pick up the phone to call him for God knows how long and wish with all of his heart he could get him back. A piece of our family is gone forever and he has taken a part of my heart with him…a part I won’t get back.
But you didn’t know this. You simply saw me as your nurse. You needed me to help you on what you believed to be the worst day of your life, never knowing that it was one of the worst days of mine. You didn’t know any of this…because for the last 6 hours of my shift, I wasn’t thinking of me, I was thinking of you.