The beginning (3/20-4/20)
As a nurse, everyday can be a challenge. Over the recent weeks this has been proven even more true. When I first became a nurse, I knew it would be hard and I would be helping people. But with the pandemic is full swing being a nurse is more than what it used to be. We are "superheroes", that's what everyone is saying. I don't feel like a superhero. I feel like I'm doing my job but also people understanding what we do for the first time is 12 years.
When the pandemic was unfolding in the epicenter of NYC, I was on vacation. We were supposed to go to Paris and have a trip of a lifetime. That didn't happen. The world was shutting down and we decided to cancel right before the US banned international travel. We rebooked for October, hoping this comes to fruition, but the way things are looking this is highly unlikely. So we booked a trip to Arizona, but then changed it to NC then changed it to Lake Placid. We escaped secretly to get away from the madness. It was a tranquil, relaxing trip but obviously not Paris. When we returned it was back to real life.
The first day being back after being away from the reality of what COVID it was totally shocking. I've witnessed chaos and tragedy many times over my almost 13 years as a nurse, but this was different. It was a calm chaotic vibe. Empty beds all throughout the hospital in preparation of the surge. All staff wearing masks, unable to recognize all you knew so well throughout the years. Everyone nervous, scared but invested in fighting the fight. Stories of nurses and staff being out sick because they were infected. Some at home resting some not making it. How could this happen? We are the caregivers. I called my parents that day from work and pleaded that they stay home. No more going to work, no more unnecessary trips to the store for frivolous items. This was REAL. And I'm seeing it first hand. The tables were turned and was begging them to stay safe so they wouldn't end up in the ICU, like so many patients I've seen. My father, the most stubborn of all, I think he finally understood the reality when I call him crying and staying you can't go to work anymore it's not worth it.
At the hospital we have several ICUs but I've never seen so many patients intubated. I walked down the hall of the ICU and saw every single patient was intubated. It was horrifying. Nurses scurrying around managing all the alarms, keeping patients afloat. The new method of nursing is now survival, for the patients and staff. Just make it through my shift.
Halls were empty, no visitors, no families. Just us "superheroes" meandering through the halls to see what the next patient had in store for us. All staff being reallocated, peds nurses taking care of adults, ORs turning into ICUs, PTs searching for work because most patients couldn't participate in a session. All of disguised in our PPE, 2 masks, a bonnet, eye shields, shoe covers. Under it all, it was just us. Doing our job as we would. The weight of the pandemic, our responsibilities at home and at work, our fear all resting on our bodies. Coming home after work and still feeling the stress of all. The tightness in my body and mind, knowing I was only home a few hours before reentering it all again. A constant feeling of wearing a mask and ears aching from the weight of all the PPE. These are all new things that us "superheroes" endured.
On my days off, everyone wants to "check in". Several video chats happen on the weekend. "How's the hospital" "Do you have enough masks" "Are you staying safe" everyone asks from the safety of their homes. It's something that is so hard to describe, you know your loved ones are anxious about you but you also know they have no idea the horrors you see everyday, which has become the new normal. "Stay safe" is my favorite phrase, ugh it drives me crazy. I am trying to stay safe, but also I'm doing my job in an unsafe place. So it's hard to do. I am safe because at work I'm surrounded by my colleagues who are my family too, and we protect each other.
I appreciate all the love and support but everyone also thinks you're a corona expert. BTW I know nothing more about it, except if you contract a complicated case the road ahead is not an easy one. And please don't tell me what you know about because you have no idea.
My work as a wound nurse was a little slow at first. Most likely because patients weren't being turned because they were critically ill. Now over the past 2 weeks the number of patients with wounds has skyrocketed. Is it because patients are less critical and can be turned and assessed? Is it because nurses are more comfortable with these critically ill patients? Is it because the wounds are so bad now they are obvious? Not sure. All I know is that what we have to focus on is healing the wounds of patients with them and preventing the ones that haven't happened yet.
It has been a very tough few weeks. I'm not one to cry and I had 2 breakdowns. Mostly because of the pressure I'm feeling. Worrying about my family and my friends and keeping my department at work afloat and positive. It's hard to be positive all the time, which I am mostly. But this isn't a positive time. I continue to be positive but have my moments of "this sucks!", but quickly I return to a get it done attitude.
I've been keeping busy on days off because I feel like when I'm not at work I'm not productive. So, I've been baking and cooking and eating.
I enjoy seeing my family and friends from a distance but I just want to HUG them! And lounge in their house and be normal again. Maybe one day, hopefully soon. Thankful I have my husband to come home and hug. He's been so great during this time, letting me come home and be grumpy and tired and just done. Even though he might not fully understand my daily experiences, he supports me and that is so important.