I have been walking around with a ball of anxiety in my stomach for roughly two weeks. I knew last Friday would be a turning point. When I left my office that night I packed extra things I normally would leave there. I stopped going to hot yoga two weeks ago.
You know that was hard for me. But I knew from the stories coming out of Italy that after even only a handful of cases in our state the worst was yet to come.
I did a presentation once on mass casualties. The head of emergency response of our state was there. I presented on Hurricane Katrina. The largest barrier for them was helicopters. They didn’t have enough helicopters to rescue people, and they waited roughly 5-7 days to contract with private companies. By then many had died.
I asked the head of operations how many helicopters we have in our state. He said, “One”. You could hear a pin drop. He rushed to add that we “would never see flooding like in New Orleans,” to the roomful of 100+ people now freaking out that we were all going to die.
Two weeks ago I started to get a pit in my stomach because I am acutely aware of the estimated number of ventilators in our state. That was part of my presentation five years ago. I was also acutely aware that the numbers coming out of Italy were bad. Very bad. I started feeling like we were New Orleans being hit by Katrina with one helicopter.
A lot of people are going to die. We are going to be faced with tough decisions. I implored my Mom to stop yoga class and any other outings. I bought into social distancing far sooner than the rest of our country because being in healthcare is a double edged sword. We know the limitations of our system. We know how to interpret statistics and death rates and percentages. I knew two weeks ago we don’t have enough ventilators to save people in a pandemic.
I moved my practice to telehealth only. Of course so did the rest of the USA so it’s been a nightmare dealing with insurance companies. Many patients are still canceling though because they don’t have their own incomes and are worried about medical bills, even small co-pays can be detrimental when people are out of work.
In the midst of me worrying about keeping my practice afloat I received messages from the hospital I work at asking for me to work there in the coming weeks. I know the risks. I also know all the people who work there have their own risks.
I know the doctors with kids with cystic fibrosis, the doctors over 60 with cardiac disease, the nurses with respiratory diseases, the social workers…I know everyone’s story just like they know mine. I know they are risking their health and their families every time they go to work. It’s not a question for me. I have to help out. I didn’t go into nursing thinking there wouldn’t be any hard times.
None of us make enough money for the work we do. But we all take these risks to take care of strangers not just for the strangers, our patients, but for each other. The bonds of health care professionals are what keep us all going. Time and time again when I worked in the emergency department I didn’t show up for management or the money. I showed up for my co-workers. The same is true now.
I know how it feels to be short staffed. I know how it feels to be scared of going to work. I’m scared to go to work. But I’m going to go.
To all my nurses and doc’s and techs and hospital staff- hang in there. You are the true heroes in our society. You deserve the tests that the NBA team received. The disparity in our society that we laud celebrity and neglect our most valuable members of society- nurses and healthcare professionals- is despicable.
I know we are afraid. I know we don’t have enough supplies. I know we are all putting ourselves and our families at risk. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for all you do and I’m with you. I’m showing up at work. I’ll see you there. Tune out the noise and do what we do best. Heal. Tell dirty jokes. Make horrible coffee. Complain about management. And save some lives. We got this.