#COVID-19 · politics

Dear Mayor DeBlasio, a response to your op-ed about drafting medical professionals…Truly yours, a nurse.

Having worked in the emergency department, which is essentially the red-headed stepchild of a hospital, I already know that people treat ED’s like crap until they need one. No one make massive donations to emergency departments like they do cancer centers.

We are unseen heroes.

Until COVID. Now all of the sudden people have taken an interest in our critical care skills. They are hard skills to learn. I felt like it took me a year to become a real nurse in the emergency department. Longer to master IV’s on a coding child with parents screaming in my ear. Longer to recognize the signs of a child who can wait five hours versus some one who can barely wait five minutes to be seen. I left the emergency department proficient.

I saved some kid’s lives along the way. I started a lot of IV’s. I pounded on chests with no heartbeat and I breathed air into lungs that could not breathe for themselves.

In six and a half years I was exposed to H1N1, Influenza B, Tuberculosis, Pertussis, Hepatitis C, and meningitis. More than once. I was kicked in the ribs the week of my wedding. I spent the week of my wedding dealing with bruised ribs and worker’s comp.

I carried with me the grief of parents and the sights of dying children.

I saw my co-worker’s brutally assaulted by patients.

Throughout those six and a half years I never had the support of management. I had to fight to get a Pertussis vaccine covered by the hospital after my third exposure. I had to send about ten e-mails and make multiple phone calls to get worker’s compensation to cover the emergency department bill that occupational health made me go to when I was kicked in the ribs. During H1N1 we had a shortage of masks and gowns and gloves. We were told to put up and shut up or be fired.

We never received raises consistently and we never got paid more during the H1N1 pandemic for risking our own health. Our hospital did not cover any costs incurred when one of our employees got sick with influenza or H1N1.

The day I left the ED I left my family, my co-workers, but I stepped into a new life as an advanced practice nurse where I could leave behind the crap that came with knowing some of the best people I’ve met in my life.

I’ve been reading the articles and watching the stories and hearing from my own friends of nurses shamed and scorned for speaking out when we don’t have protection or PPE and I know I made the right decision back in 2013 when I walked away from the emergency department. Hospital management did not have our back then and it does not have our backs now.

I’ve been approached by the hospital I work at per diem to put my critical care experience to use. My brain and my skills are valuable right now. But they don’t want to pay me adequately. My skills are desperately needed and I am deserving of pay equivalent to risking my life.

I unapologetically value my life at more than just 45$-65$ an hour with no hazard pay or differential. As should all nurses.

Mayor DeBlasio, you implore healthcare provider’s to come forward and just put their lives on the line. Yet we know that on a good day hospitals and management don’t have our backs. They have their own. You have offered no incentive for any nurse or MD to step forward and risk their life. Risk time away from their families. Risk infecting our families.

Pay us. Adequately. Forgive all loans for all medical professionals who respond. Partner with state colleges in NY, CT, NJ, MA and offer free master’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees once this is all over for nurses to advance their education.

Guarantee PPE. I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about PPE. But I said recently to a hospital employee if you could guarantee me a new N95, face shield, and full body PPE I’d sign up today. But they couldn’t. I have kids. I have a family. I am the sole financial provider right now. I’m not risking my life for hospital systems that haven’t risked anything for us.

I can tell you nurses and MD’s are not soldiers. We didn’t go into healthcare to risk our lives. But the longer you work in critical care the more you realize our lives are risked daily. Without a pandemic. And you see how little front line employees mean to the hospital system.

We are not flooding into the frontlines because you have not guaranteed us free healthcare should we contract COVID-19 while “volunteering” for you.

Most of us have deductible plans. Who is going to pay our six thousand dollar family deductible if I’m in the ICU unable to work because I heroically answered your call, worked the front lines without appropriate PPE, and contracted COVID-19? Are you Mayor DeBlasio going to guarantee free healthcare for acute COVID-19 cases in all your healthcare workers and also free mental healthcare long term for the PTSD that will inevitably ensue in all your front line workers watching people die? Because on your website and upon pressing by the media the response was “Well most of our volunteers have health insurance,” That is NOT good enough Mayor DeBlasio.

You say to draft healthcare providers. Soldiers receive college tuition, healthcare at top hospitals in the country, free housing, adequate pay, and many other benefits that should come with being a soldier. You are asking us to soldier up without offering us any reason to do so other than we just should because you are desperate.

Until hospitals and cities and governments start incentivizing healthcare providers by paying us adequately for risking our lives, providing long term financial ease by canceling all student debt for first responders, and guaranteeing free healthcare for any COVID related exposure illnesses that occur during employment and emergency response to a pandemic…then you can write all the op-ed’s you want trying to appeal to healthcare providers (especially those of us with critical care experience)…but no one is going to answer that call.

Many of us have been there. We’ve worked front lines before. We know the risks and we know hospitals and management don’t have our backs and in this case we also know there aren’t enough masks to have our front.

Prove me otherwise and then maybe you’ll get the people you need.

I’ll summarize for you- Pay me. Pay my loans. Offer free education afterward. Free housing and food during. Free healthcare during and after for anything related to COVID-19. Offer life insurance policies. And for God’s sake. Provide me with adequate PPE- not sterilized, not re-used- I’m talking full body suits. Look at some pictures from China.

Those are my conditions for re-entering the front lines. I hope every nurse demands the same.

 

 

#COVID-19 · politics

Pandemic Journal Entry #2- But Where Did All the Yeast Go??

In an ironic and rather cruel twist of fate I found a use for all the fabric I’ve saved for ten years. Most of which I used to make my own scrub tops back in my emergency department days. I started making fabric masks.

Apparently the United States of America supposedly, one of the most advanced countries in the world, doesn’t have enough masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) for a pandemic. We also outsourced all our manufacturing to China (They also were hit with the pandemic worse and first) so…yeah. Essentially the hospitals here are fucked.

The CDC and JACHO and DPH…all the most dreaded initials in healthcare…have now declared that wearing a bandana is “okay”. Let me put this in perspective. About three weeks ago these were the SAME initialed departments that were ding-ing hospitals nationwide for nurses keeping their water bottles “at the nurse’s station”.

I hope everyone wearing a bandana at work today eats a damn pizza at the nurse’s station.

The jury is out if cloth masks do anything. There are studies showing they don’t.

But of course because I’m smart and a nurse and have had to wear these masks for twelve hours on end I am a step ahead of the average “sewist” (someone who sews a lot? I dunno my Aunt used the term and it sounded official). I started sewing. Something I actually haven’t done much of since the boys were born.

I still got it though. After a first crappy mask. I got the hang of it. I make them three layers- cotton, thick fabric, cotton- with an opening at the top to slide in either a surgical mask or a HEPA filter. I’m using framing wire to make the nasal bridge part malleable and more snug.

I’ve also learned where to make a cinch (yes that’s a sewing term that I actually knew) in order to make it more snug to the nose and jaw. I also practice talking and breathing while wearing it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to open my phone with face ID only to realize I have a damn mask on. They are comfortable. They are breathable and they are better than a bandana. I told my wife I should patent this shit.

But I won’t. I also saw some lady charging for them! Screw that noise. Any nurse I know can have as many as you want.

But while I’m making them I’m just thinking Fuck you CDC. Fuck you #45. No nurse on the front line should have to wear a fabric mask. Why don’t we have enough N95’s? Why are you risking the lives of the only people in the world who can save every one else?

Critical care nurses are not common. We have years of training and experience and most of us leave the game because on a good day it’s taxing. During a pandemic…yeah we don’t want to be near it.

But I would go near it if you had PPE. But you don’t. So you can’t pay me enough.

Yesterday the boys and I went for a 1.5 mile hike together. Only the state parks are open right now. No playgrounds. And there are talks of closing the parks. Please GOD NO! We literally would have no where to go with them. Maybe not literally. We have a yard. Try explaining to a 4 year old why we couldn’t go to a restaurant though. It was rough. He does not believe me when I tell him they are all closed.

We officially have no childcare this week because our baby-sitter’s told us they are abiding by the governor’s order to stay home which is totally valid and I’m not knocking at all. My wife and I had a pow-wow and made the decision that my wife will stay home from work (her store is still open as it is considered essential) so I can still see patients.

I’m worried all the time about everything.

Today was yeast. I bake bread or pizza dough every weekend. I used my last two packets of yeast today. Apparently every one decided that we will not have access to bread?! So there is no yeast anywhere. Not online not in stores. My wife went to over 8 stores before she found some. I know all y’all are not out there making homemade bread. Because every time I make it literally no one has ever even seen homemade bread before.

So where the hell is all the yeast going?! I don’t know. With the toilet paper I guess.

Anyway I made my cinnamon swirl bread today. My wife is stopping work this week so we will be down an income. I volunteered to provide telepsych services for the state of NY due to COVID-19. I also got an e-mail stating any one on a biologic should be excluded from direct patient care…I am on a biologic for my asthma (yes it’s that bad)  so that made me feel validated in doing remote work only. I don’t want to die. I probably would if I got this virus.

We are heading into the week where we will really feel the pandemic. Our numbers are growing. We are at the part of an exponential curve that is climbing with no end in sight to the top. It’s the scariest part to the curve. I tell people with panic symptoms that panic attacks always peak. There is always a time that is the worst after which they start to come back down. This isn’t a panic attack though. These are human lives.

Hang in there America. Shit’s about to get real.

 

 

******Also in case any future person is wondering politically what is going on during this pandemic…Our President sounds like an ass. So nothing new. The senate Republicans are idiots, got exposed, tested positive, and now they need the Democrats to agree with them for votes because too many are absent and they don’t have a 60 vote majority anymore. Can we get a new Supreme Court Justice NOW! In case you didn’t understand- The Republicans are acting and sounding like idiots and as a result are testing positive for COVID-19. The D’s are doing their thing. Squabbling and bitching that the R’s suck and not really getting anything accomplished.

 

politics

Who do you want to be President?

I’ve been asked this a couple times and considering my many political posts it’s a fair question as I’m not quiet about my politics. In this case I did give money to a campaign for the first time in my life.

But to who is not important. Not this year. This year what’s important is evicting #45.

In answer to that question, “Anyone but #45”. Get him out. The damage he’s done by placing conservative judges in lifelong positions in federal courts and the damage he will continue to do…because as much as I love certain elderly Supreme Court justices I just don’t think they have another 4 years in them…will be felt throughout my lifetime.

MO introduced a bill challenging gay marriage. There’s a chance it could be taken up, and if it made it to the federal courts it would get through to the Supreme Court.

The Republicans are better organized and more cutthroat than Democrats. They played the long game and they are winning.

Women’s rights, immigration laws, LGBTQ rights have never been more at risk.

I don’t think any of the Democratic nominees have the energy and charisma of Barack. Perhaps he was just one of a kind. But he also wasn’t cutthroat and didn’t push hard enough or long enough for Merrick Garland.

I want Democrats to step up to the plate and play the game that Republicans are winning.

Honestly I think Pelosi is the most cutthroat and she’s a little nutty. But if something happened to first and second in line I wouldn’t be sad if the Speaker of the House took over as President.

I’ll say it again. I want any one else but DTJ to be President. Preferably a Democrat. Preferably some one who is pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ rights. Preferably some one who will hit the ball out of the park instead of taking the walk.

Yes I contributed to a campaign. Yes I have a favorite. But if they don’t get the nomination I will vote for whoever the D. nominee is. As should you if you want him out. Don’t vote independent. An independent candidate won’t win and will take away electoral votes from a Democrat. It could all but guarantee a win for DTJ.

If I hear anyone complain about the D nominee I’m going to get irritated. Any one is better than our current administration. The bar is shockingly low as anyone who hasn’t said on television they can freely grab women by the “pussy” because of their fame….or who hasn’t been impeached…or who hasn’t asked a foreign country to meddle in our elections…or who believes in science…etc…anyone is better than this.

My end goal is for him to be out. What’s yours?

mom of boys · politics

Visiting the “Scary” City with Twins

I’m going to preface this with a few things. 1- We moved to the suburbs from a city- where we loved living, but while I was home on maternity leave there was not one but three home invasions all within a block of our house. One of the houses we shared a corner of our yard with. I was home alone for 14 hour stretches because my wife worked an hour away. I had visions of armed intruders coming while I was breastfeeding twins with no defense.

My car was broken into one night. And with my sister and I standing ten feet away some one came running toward her running car to try and steal it. So there were a few things that led us to move.

2- I didn’t want to live in a space as rural as we do. But we fell in love with this house and pool and the house we lived in for nine years was very close to the neighbors. I’d be cooking in the kitchen and suddenly a neighbor would be literally in our window chatting with me if it was open. My wife didn’t want that anymore. So now we have over an acre of land to separate us from our “neighbors”.

The trade-off of space and a pool was a white Republican town. I’m not sure we will stay but here we are for now. We had to move daycares too. We are now in much smaller and more suburbia type daycare with far less diversity in the teachers and kids. Previously my two little white boys were the minority. I liked it that way.

By moving here I knew we’d have stuff to deal with. But Sunday morning caught me by surprise.

Declan named the closest city and said, “It’s a scary place!” I was surprised that the name of the nearest city was in his vocabulary and also that he had formed an opinion about it. My wife facepalmed because she knew this was going to lead into an angry rant about ignorant white people by me.

First we asked where he heard this. But as he noted my intensity and interest grow Declan stopped talking. My wife and I hadn’t made this statement so it had to be some one at daycare.

I went into my rant. “It’s not scary. I work there at the hospital. You were born there!” my voice apparently was rising and my wife tried to calm me down, and I said, “No, this is all because of ignorant freaking white people in this area of our freaking state who think that “insert name of city” is bad because there are Black people there. Freaking racist bullshit.” Declan then started talking about stickers obviously trying to change the topic of conversation. Yes I swore in front of my kids. I was pissed.

I interrupted him. “We are going to ‘city name'” They looked at me surprised, Declan said, “Today?” I said, “Yup.” So we went.

It’s not a particularly big city and in my humble opinion not scary at all. As with all cities there are parts and bars that you should avoid after midnight but what’s interesting about working inpatient psychiatry is meeting all the homeless people that live in the city. I generally see several people I’ve taken care of walking the streets and the green and receive waves and nods so I never particularly worry about my safety. I’ve generally met the “Bogeymen” on my unit. They aren’t scary. Just ill.

We walked the streets. We had lunch at a restaurant with live music and chocolate chip pancakes. We saw people of all ethnicities and most importantly we showed the boys that though different from our sleepy town it is not scary and we were not scared to be there.

Considering we live in the Northeast there is significant racism in our “liberal” state. I will not be raising my white sons to fear a place or people because they look or seem different than us. We told them repeatedly that they could tell their class we went to the city and it’s not scary. I hope they did.

Going downtown is challenging because of parking and you know…twins. But we will have to suck it up and do it more frequently in order to raise them with the mentality that suburbia is not the only way to be or the right way to live or the better way.

As I said we are both unsure of staying here. Safety wise we are better off than where we were. But diversity and raising our sons in such a Republican white town, I don’t know that we are better off. The home invasions were real and scary. But white suburbia is apparently just as scary to me.

I don’t know the right answer. I just know that last Sunday we had fun in the scary city.

politics

Gender Journeys

I have the privilege of treating many transgender and non-binary teenagers. I’ve been doing this long enough that now I’ve seen several teens from pre-transition to post.

One time some one came in to see me, they are someone I started seeing prior to transitioning, prior to even telling their parents or anyone else for that matter.

When I saw them in the waiting room I almost didn’t recognize them. The changes were immense. They were now on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and the affects of it were noticeable as they could now pass for their self identified gender.

Some clients respond well to comments about physical changes, some don’t, so I never comment on it. I tried to contain my smile as I thought in my head, ‘There you are,’ Because there they were. Smiling, confident, carrying themselves differently, talking differently, making direct eye contact.

The change is often astounding for me to behold as the dysphoria lifts and the depression eases, to see the person emerge who has always been struggling to come out- there are simply not enough words that describe the impact of that moment. That moment when they walk in and I haven’t seen them in a few months and they are themselves. For maybe the first time ever.

Some one came in who I have been treating for almost six years. I always see them monthly sometimes more frequently than that. They’ve struggled in the past and eventually came out as transgender. After supporting them through coming out to family and then  transitioning and interventions, we finally scheduled our next appointment out two months. For the first time ever in almost six years we both agreed they were doing well enough to push our check in our two months.

Anyone who has seen the before and the after; you can see it’s not just the physical changes. The emotional vibes they give off in the room change. There is a quiet confidence that was absent before.

For those people who have never seen/interacted with/known a trans person from the before to the after…well they are the individuals who make statements like, “I just don’t understand it,” because if you saw the process- the before of the hurt/depression/anxiety/insecurities/self harm/suicide attempts/hospitalizations to the during- coming out to family/friends/healthcare providers/judgement/being disowned/being kicked out/being cut off financially to the treatment- HRT- Shots, side effects, lab work, dealing with pharmacies and transphobic pharmacists/surgeries-secretaries, billing departments/new license/new social security gender marker/transphobia everywhere/insurance companies now not covering a hysterectomy because your gender is “male”…to the after….quiet calm confidence.

If you experienced that moment when I go to get them in the waiting room and almost don’t recognize the person sitting there- but then I scrutinize their face and I think ‘there you are’. There they are. Smiling. Not depressed. No self harm. Not suicidal. Beautiful. If you saw what I see you would have no choice but to “get it”. Because when you bear witness to that over years- it’s impossible to see it with anything but sincere admiration for their strength, resilience, and perseverance in a world that often wants them to fail.

I often have trans clients relay to me stories of transphobia. I do not have one client who has never experienced transphobia. Not one. They all have been discriminated against at some point very openly- either spit at, cursed at, told to leave a restaurant, fired from jobs, and disowned by family.

Recently one client told me they were asked “Are you sure? That you’re trans?” My client laughed, and said, “If there’s one thing I’m sure about, it’s that.”

Note to reader: Don’t ask that question. It’s rude and invalidating. My client is good-natured and confident and was bothered by it but also recognized the source of the question and was not surprised by their ignorance. Don’t be that ignorant person. 

There is a lot of press lately about transgender medical interventions and the validity of them. A lot of bills being introduced to limit and/or deny accessibility of HRT and surgical interventions for teenagers.

If you’ve seen what I’ve seen and the drastic changes they create in people and teenagers- you would never think to question the validity of interventions. You would only question the intelligence of the people questioning the validity.

In this case though I don’t think it’s a lack of intelligence in our lawmakers. I think it’s a lack of love, kindness, and overt transphobia and hate emboldened by an administration that is potentially the most toxic in our history toward minorities.

To all my genderqueer, gender non-conforming, transgender, non-binary people; I see you. There you are. You are beautiful. Your feelings are valid. Your journey is your truth. I’m sorry to my core that there are people in this country making you feel less than. You deserve better and you have allies.