Hope in the killing fields

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Our 23 bed ICU has been converted to Covid-19 patients.

All of them.

I want to tell myself this is science fiction, but it’s not. It’s real. And we are scared.
As I enter the unit to start my night shift, we have a huddle of the off-going and oncoming nurses.

We are committed to fight this invisible monster.

After a brief update of all of our patients, we bow our heads and say a prayer. A prayer to protect all healthcare and essential workers across our nation. And our Universe. A prayer for safety and strength. A prayer for the patients stricken with this potentially lethal virus. A prayer for the families that are not allowed in to see their loved ones. Not allowed in to say hello, or to say I love you or to say their goodbyes.

ICU has always been my favorite job. The dynamic and strong work here. Fearless and endless, we never stop.

But this is different.

We receive our assignments. If we are lucky, we only receive 2 patients. Both on ventilators. We have a clean nurse to assist with adding our PPE’s. We also pray that we have the right protective equipment. N-95 masks, isolation gown, gloves, foot covers, and face shield. I am the “dirty nurse”.

I have to be prepared to have everything ready to go into that patient’s room.
IV antibiotics, IV drips like vasopressin and Levophed for those dangerously low blood pressures. Lab vials for the continuous need of lab work taken from the patients arterial line. Tube feedings for their nutrition. Morphine IV drips for their pain and discomfort, propofol for sedation.

Beyond all of the technical and mandatory medical needs of this patient, I have to remember there is a person on that ventilator. A person who is all alone. There is no family member with them. It’s me and the patient. And that steady beep of the EKG monitor and the pumping of the ventilator. The noises that provide no comfort.

This virus does not discriminate.

I have 30 year old male who was perfectly healthy and I have 64 year old lady. This virus is an equal opportunity employer.

In my 30 plus years as an ICU nurse, never have I seen this incredible death threat.
I check the ventilator along with the respiratory therapists at my side. Check the settings, suction the patient. Though the patient is in a semi-chemical daze from the pain meds and sedation medications, I squeeze this young man’s hand, I let him know we are here for him. That we are going to do everything possible to make him strong again. To let him walk out of this place and see his wife again and hug his little kids again. And pet his dog again. I tell him to hang in there. That we are doing everything possible to fight this monster.

His breathing is shallow. His lungs have taken a beaten. But I can see his pulse and I can feel his pulse.

I hold his hand. And tell him to be strong. I say a pray for him. For us.

I want to shatter inside myself but I know I can’t . We must stay strong.
He turns his head towards me.

And squeezes my hand back.

Hope.

This is dedicated to all of the nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists who dedicate their lives every day in the face of danger. Thank you for all that you do.

Coronavirus

We are the land of plenty.

But not now

We stand naked.

Our America is not prepared.

With the surge of coronavirus invading our nation, nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and medics remember our oath, our dedication and our persistence of always putting sick people first.

Everything is urgent, and emergent and downright scary.

We all worry if we’ll be infected. Will we carry this virus home to our family?

Isolation and quarantined.

The front lines are Emergency Departments and ICU’s and not only are there not enough beds, or ventilators, there are not enough experienced nurses, or respiratory therapists or physicians to spread out. Some physicians are dead. A nurse has died.

We are being told by management to use the same mask day in and day out.

Our PPE’s are inadequate and not bountiful.

An experienced nurse has been suspended because she refused to take care of a coronavirus positive patient in ICU, as she was not given a mask or gown to protect herself. Because the hospital was out of supplies.

Suspended.

Nurses are told if they test positive they must report to work anyway.

This devastating list and problems are extensive.

And there is no way out.

We are the killing fields with minimal or no protection.

I say make noise and document.
Report to the state board of nursing.
To the health department.
Report to OSHA.
This is not a hoax.
This is not a science project.
This is the real thing.

A virus spreading wildly with no vaccine.

And when the nurses and physicians and respiratory therapists and medics start tumbling down like a domino effect, in sickness or in death….

It’ll be lights out for those in need.
Game over.