#COVID-19 · Nursing

Hope in 2021 & Yoga

I recall saying that 2021 could be worse. Several times. When I said that I have to be honest I was not picturing an insurrection against the capitol caused by #45. But I knew it could be worse.

I don’t have a lot of coherent thoughts about that week because when I think about it I feel this gut wrenching burning anger and fear and a lot of other feelings too. Probably shame too that this was my country. I think about my Dad, turning over in his grave; he would have been the first to volunteer for the National Guard to go protect the Capitol. He would have been furious. I can almost hear him ranting.

It’s hard to put into words what it was like watching the footage of that. So I won’t. Because nothing I say can do it justice.

Sunday my sons were with their other Mom and my sister-in-law was teaching a yoga class. Live. In person. I agreed to go and it wasn’t until I felt my eyes welling up in Lizard pose that I realized why. I hadn’t done a live class since March 2020. So much has changed. So many lives lost. So much upheavel and isolation.

I never appreciated yoga classes until I didn’t have them. I do them on Zoom but it’s different. Dissonance.

I practiced next to my sister. I didn’t know any one else there. It was a huge cold industrial building converted into a gym space. Big enough that we were more than ten feet from any one else. We all kept our masks on the whole time and the ceilings were ridiculously high. It felt as safe as it was going to be in these times.

I had the benefit of being a week out from my second COVID vaccine. So I was less worried than I would have been otherwise.

I was there in lizard pose, with my left foot up next to my left arm. My arms on the floor. Head bowed. I could hear people as we moved through poses. I didn’t have my kids climbing on me or my cats scratching at my mat.

The most visceral aspect that 2020 lacked is connection. We lost our connections with other people. With our humanity. It felt reparative; that moment in Lizard. I was cold. The floor was cold. It was twenty degrees outside. I’m used to hot yoga. This was the opposite.

I had on three layers at one point and my socks.

The acoustics were bad and I could barely hear my sister-in-law as she called the poses.

But that five second moment in Lizard I thought that this was one of the most blissful moments I’d had since March 2020. It was a moment of connection in a time of isolation. It was a moment of light in such dark times. And it gave me hope that we would survive this and things like yoga classes will happen again.

This week I registered with the hospital I work at per diem to administer COVID vaccines as part of their mass vaccination movement that starts this week. Not only do I get to stick people with needles, which after almost a year of telehealth, brings tears of happiness to my eyes, but I get to see other people. Talk to other people. I get to nurse people. In person.

Yes I’ll be masked, face shielded, and jabbing people with a vaccine that has more controversy than any vaccine I’ve encountered in my life. But as a nurse I can’t decline being part of this movement. That line from Hamilton rings, “History has it’s eyes on you,” and I feel super corny saying it but it feels like I’m part of history. Some day when I’m super old and a general annoyance to my children and grandchildren I’ll tell them about COVID and life during a pandemic and how I vaccinated people against it.

I’m sure they will be bored to tears and likely try and escape my presence as soon as possible…and maybe I’ll pretend I can’t hear or like every other old person I’ll pretend I don’t notice the social cues that they are bored and plod on in a boring account of administering injections.

It’s a weird time. A new administration. Fox News doesn’t talk about Trump much these days, or the Capitol insurrection. So that’s cool:/ Yes I check Fox News. I like to know what my fellow Americans are being told so I can counter it. I used to think life would go back to normal after COVID. Now I know there is no normal. There is a before, a now, and a then. The before is gone. The now is here and then is coming. None of it the same as before.

Even my beloved yoga has changed. I can get further into half split then ever before. I can do a one legged stand almost perfectly. I’ve spent the last year continuing to deepen my practice. So when I hit the mat in an actual in person live class it wasn’t the same me as before COVID. But it still felt damn good.

Nursing

Nurse to Nurse. Hang in There.

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.