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*
As we go about living our lives in this time of the Pandemic of Covid-19 each of us are impacted quite differently depending on what we do for a living and where we are demographically. I will share my experience here in Denver, Colorado and would love to hear from you what is happening in your area and how you are impacted. I’m a neonatal nurse. I care for premature and ill babies. We have instituted very strict visiting restrictions, are having trouble with our supplies as many of them come from China. We are reusing things and rationing gowns and masks. We have very few pump parts left as they come from China. Human breast-milk is like medicine for our babies and having our moms pump right away has always been the gold standard in providing their babies with lifesaving nutrition. Formula can introduce dangerous bacteria and can lead to intestinal infections for the littlest ones. We are going to have to go hand expression for breast-milk if things continue this way. I am at the same time enrolled in an online RN-BSN degree after 22 years as a nurse. I am grandfathered in in my hospital, but if I ever want to move I will need a Bachelors degree to practice. Oddly, the course I am taking is public health and my paper I am writing is on the spread of communicable disease or Epidemiology. My topic is Covid-19. So in the next few days I will learn even more than I know now about this new virus. The school that I go to, WGU, has quite a presence across the US for nurses like me as it is well prepared, accredited, and pretty cheap. So I find myself connected with RNs all over the US on my WGU facebook group. It has turned into an information sharing platform over the last couple of days. Therefore, I have my finger on the pulse of almost every region of the US as we are telling each other what is happening in our individual hospitals. Seattle is in a dire situation. The nurses there are talking about running out of beds and supplies, exhaustion, lack of personal protective equipment. Massachusetts is nearly as bad. The rest of the nurses are gearing up and seeing more cases, limiting visitation and preparing. Most of us have gotten a rapid education in Covid-19. Initially, many of us, including myself, were skeptical and thought it was nothing more than the flu. Now, I know it is different, it is a real public threat. The hospitalization rate is roughly 20%. If enough people get it this would overwhelm our hospitals. We don’t have a whole lot of ICU beds in the US. A great portion of these patients would need ventilators. We simply wouldn’t have enough. We are a lean, mean hospital machine in the US. We run tight, not just with staff but with everything. We get them in and get them out. We are not set up for a mass influx. We would have to start triaging who gets treatment and who doesn’t. None of us want to even think about the ethical implications of that. Suddenly, I find myself pretty outspoken to those who think social distancing, the closing of our schools, public places and restaurants is “overblown, an overreaction”. I am posting things on Facebook and commenting on newspaper articles (a first). I told a guy in an automotive shop today, when he was complaining about the job losses that will happen and the economic fallout, that we simply cannot handle this if people don’t listen to the CDC. I feel sorry for the coming economic pain, for the restaurants, for the small businesses, for the hourly workers who will have to stay home. I think my family will be affected as well. We run an AIRBNB that has dried up, my husband is a pastor and expects to take a pay-cut. I have a daughter in college that is driving home and now doing online classes. She still has a rental house that we’ve been paying for in Salem, Oregon. I told her I’m not sure how we are going to pay for things in the near future. But people’s lives matter more. They just do. That’s why I got into healthcare in the first place. I believe and have hope that others feel the same as I do and will sacrifice money, comfort, socialization and put up with some level of hardship for the protection of the vulnerable in our communities.
*Charleston, SC October 2019*
Today is my birthday. I turn 50. Fifty years has revealed that there is no perfection yet always blessings and joys. The most frustrating thing about fifty is that I would like to plan out the next fifty and I have realized this is not going to happen. When I reflect on the last year, things have happened which I would not have foreseen, some plans have worked out and others have not. The most meaningful things continue to be people I have drawn closer to and feeling that I am working hard towards some purpose. It is the small decisions every day in the way I reach out and care for my marriage, my children, my friends and family that make my life richer, happier and more meaningful. The habits that I form at work, school (as I finally pursue a BSN after 22 years as an associate degreed RN), writing, music and being healthy physically keep me grounded and moving forward. Life happens in the minutes, so my goal this year is not to neglect making all those minutes count!
*Denver, Co 2020*
Damn if I don’t sit and do nothing
when there is so much that needs to be done
the black nothing that is empty
full of spaces dull and heavy
lethargy and waste inside
I thought that all my yesterdays would fade away
but I find they grow and fill the empty space when my mind is quiet
the child I was and the woman I became
live together in my mind
yesterdays visit my dreams
in the oddest times they pop into my mind
lingering as ghosts
some whom I love and some I confess I hate
I feel sure they will stay with me dancing on the edge of what is now
making me determined to cherish and keep those who are here
let ghosts sleep and the living love
As I traveled to see my college daughter perform in her Christmas vocal concert in Salem, Oregon I was busy looking at how Oregon stacks up against Colorado. It is green, temperate, rainy, hilly, lush, crowded, expensive, eccentric, has a large homeless population, friendly, nature oriented, coffee oriented. It has many of the things I like and as always when we travel, my husband and I engaged on what ifs. I am always looking for a new place. I grew up with parents that moved dozens of times before I was eighteen. By the time I moved out (at eighteen) I had lived in California, Utah, Florida, and Texas, in many different areas and homes in those respective states. It was hard to settle as an adult, but I knew my kids needed more stability than I had. We have lived in Denver for twenty years, but true to my childhood, we have lived in the foothills of Denver, the west, north and central side. I feel that if I move, it will be a fresh start, the right fit and in some way better. Sometimes those things were true, but sometimes it just left a feeling that nowhere is home. It makes me think of belonging. Belonging is the way we identify who we are and what we care about. The small communities we make online, our families, our work families, the causes we take up with, the ways we identify ourselves with our pleasures and hobbies. Some of the ways I identify are as a lover of words, pianist, and nurse. In each of those communities I feel at home in a different way. Belonging and home go hand in hand. They are intertwined. I think life is a search for belonging to the places and people that fill something up inside of us that fits just right. It is that person we choose to partner with, the way we build and create a place for our children in our lives, the search for the environment that makes us able to feel ourselves; whether in natural beauty or in a city setting. The search for belonging and home stretch before us and change as we change, looking different at the different intersections of our lives.
*Salem , Oregon December 2019*
I am only limited by
how much curiosity I bring
how much effort I make
my willingness to repeat a thing again and again
I believe that I can grow
that age will not define my ability to learn
that failure is just a word
that life is a puzzle that should be worked on
engaged with vigor