I am pissed. I am elated. I am encouraged by humanity and I think people suck. This ride with a world pandemic has been the best and the worst of humanity in full view. Around my neighborhood in Stapleton, Denver there are signs on windows and front porches that say “We are going to be OK”, and “Standing together, we love you”. I have been given masks by two people who saw my request on a community facebook page which I gave to my hospital. I have other acquaintances who are making masks for healthcare workers (sewing them). I go to work and the nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists are afraid. We are afraid. We see it coming like a wall of water that hasn’t hit us yet. We are already running low on supplies and the worst hasn’t even happened. Rumors in the medical communities from Washington, California and New York, from our colleagues there, are telling us they are having to treat COVID-19 with a mask reused over and over and not enough gowns to go around, not enough ventilators, not enough staff. I saw a facebook post today that Kaiser in California directed nurses to stop wearing their own N-95 masks with COVID patients and threatened their jobs if they were found to be doing so. Those Kaiser nurses received guidelines downgrading protective standards and giving instructions on how to reuse eyewear and masks as they said the CDC said downgraded protection for droplet contamination (but CDC said the change was based on supply rather than science). To heavy hand nurses and pressure them into not protecting themselves is heartless and criminal in my mind. I know that we don’t have what we need in Denver for what is coming toward us. Our Governor Polis said the federal government basically told the governors good luck and find your own supplies. The World Health Organization has said the lockdown efforts are to be used to ramp up supplies, ventilators, figure out where all the patients are going to go. It’s a time to prepare. But from where I’m standing we aren’t going to be ready. I hope I’m wrong. But the people of my city, my neighborhood, my church, my incredible colleagues they give me hope and heart. There has been such goodwill and appreciation and help from the community toward each other, toward the healthcare community, toward the elderly. It reminds me of The Little Ships of Dunkirk, where 850 private boats sailed from England to Dunkirk in France in 1940 to rescue soldiers trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk during World War II. That’s what all the mask making and mask giving feels like to me. I have a friend/nurse at work who’s cousin is going to be testing patients for COVID. She was given one paper mask to reuse all day. The science says they don’t work after a few hours once they are soiled. I brought in a box of N-95 that one of my neighborhood Facebook friends had brought to my house. They were in her garage being used for woodworking. My friend asked if she could take one to her cousin who was worried she was not adequately protected. I said yes, and the rest of those masks are going to the ICU and ER. That little box in someone’s garage is going to protect people’s lives in the hospital. It is the best and the worst. Here’s hoping the best prevails.
*Stapleton, Denver March 2020*