#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) ┬áso 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.