I graduated nursing school in 1979 & later advanced my degree. I’ve witnessed the evolution of healthcare; new disease discoveries; treatment processes & lots more. I finally understand what the saying, “I’ve already forgotten more than you’ll ever know” means. I worked in nursing before we used gloves like our second skin. I’m probably dating myself, but the timeline is important.
At the hospital I worked at we began admitting the first patients infected with HIV/AIDS during the early 90’s. The fear of contracting it was overwhelming sometimes. I would sincerely pray that I wasn’t assigned a certain patient & actually wasn’t until he was transferred to our skilled nursing facility (SNF). He was a pastor & his elderly mother never, ever left his side. We had to don full PPE prior to entering any affected patient’s room & it was a nightmare for me. I can’t breathe using masks unless the room temp is zero, so……. All the patient’s stories varied. One 26 y/o heterosexual male contracted it because of one night of unprotected sex with an infected female. Some were gay men whose previous partners were infected. One guy had advanced stages affecting his brain & was so mean/violent he spit in one of my favorite nurses eyes. She had to undergo months of treatment. This definitely didn’t help my paranoia.
Then there was one I’ll never forget. He was young; funny; Cajun speaking: & all the nurses on my floor became attached to him. His name was Robert & if he wasn’t admitted to our floor, we’d take time to go visit him wherever he was in the hospital. He learned our habits & I even cut my hair very short so the masks wouldn’t constantly mess up my hair! One night we went to visit him & he complained that I had coffee breath! He was always my patient when he was admitted to our floor & knew this wasn’t my norm at all! Lolololololol! Over time they determined that we didn’t have to use full PPE when merely entering the room, but we were to treat every patient as if they were infected. We were drilled to practice adequate blood & body fluid precautions. This wasn’t difficult because it was all so new to us.
During some of his later stages I took the time to pray with Robert. He was raised Catholic & he happily repeated the sinners prayer with me. My most painful memory was calling his partner & begging him to make Robert a DNR. Doctors had been unsuccessful so they asked if I could try. I can still remember exactly where I was sitting at the nurses station that night & pleading, though tears, for this. None of the medical staff wanted to code him. The partner, who had stop coming to visit, refused. Not long after that phone call I returned to work from my usual days off & Robert had died. As painful as it was, I knew he wasn’t suffering & I would eventually see him again in Heaven. My fear of a disease began to slowly dissipate & I began to understand the humans affected by it. Fear grips us. Faith calms & brings peace.
Remember the pastor? I frequently worked on the SNF unit & I finally had him as a patient. Because my son, Bryce, was a toddler I continued to utilize full PPE when doing any treatments on him. Even when I explained why I did, his mom was very offended. On one occasion, during the wee morning hours, I had to restart his IV. He was very angry & began yelling & lashing out at his mother. I immediately stepped in & told him that he would in no way disrespect her in my presence. I reminded him that she has been by his side for months neglecting her own health/well being & his behavior was unacceptable. He began to cry. I listened. Afterwards, in the hall, the mom gave me a huge hug & thanked me numerous times. She was exhausted; hurt; felt alone & uncertain about her son’s future. So many pent up emotions were discussed on a regular basis & we developed a wonderful, respectful working relationship until he was finally discharged.
Stories like this were repeated over & over with every new wave of unknown disease. As a nurse I was subjected to every virus that hit our ER. There were some patients quarantined in ICU that even our greatest diagnosticians couldn’t figure out what they had. Those are unforgettable.
I left nursing in 2004 after moving to Texas & worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator in Hepatitis clinical research. This educated me in the field of an entirely new disease process. One patient had a horrible vehicle accident & contracted Hep C from receiving blood products that weren’t properly tested. Another from being stuck by an infected needle during reconstruction on a house that had apparently been a crack house. None were IV drug users. I knew their stories. I prayed with/for them. I bought conditioning hair masks for my female patients to use on their brittle, straw-like hair. I spent time with our dietitian & created specific dietary instructions. The drug company wanted to clone me because of my patient enrollment & retention. They paid me to speak at best practices conferences in Las Vegas & Miami. Another drug company wanted me to be on their trial steering committee. I learned to treat the human while investing in their positive trial outcomes.
Throughout my nursing career I learned to treat every person, until I knew otherwise, as though they had a contractible disease. To this day, even after leaving that field, I still do. It’s common medical practice. It’s common sense. It helped me cope with the unknown.
Today we’re watching as a global threat, the Coronavirus or Covid-19 paralyzes nations. Every movie I’ve ever seen regarding this scenario – I Am Legend; Outbreak; The Patriot; & even all the zombie/vampire comes to mind regarding the aftermath of incidents. Doomsday 101. Hopelessness. Uncertainty. Fear.
What happened when the pandemic of 2009 happened? Remember it? H1N1 Coronavirus Swine Flu? I don’t even remember it being called a pandemic. Although there are over 70,000 reported cases of infected Covid-19 patients being healed, the media is creating widespread paranoia. That my friends is worse than any disease. How did we react to H1N1? Did businesses close? Did schools close? Were spring breaks extended or colleges/universities reverted to online classes only? Did travel cease to happen?
What about how we handled HIV/AIDS? Musicians held concerts for worldwide support. Televised documentaries were done on the devastation of what the disease did to children & families. Did our nation or nations shut down? Did we clean out our local grocery stores? Did common bleach sell for $40 per 2 pack? None of this happened during either epidemic/pandemic. What changed? The advancement of social media has created a massive storm of widespread panic. Please, please don’t contribute to this. Stay informed, but exercise wisdom.
People are stockpiling normal every day items as if an apocalypse is happening. We aren’t preparing for an earthquake or tsunami with total power outages are we?
I have a few questions……
(1) How are the people, who can’t afford these things on a normal basis, going to survive should this hysteria continue? Think of senior citizens who typically have to choose between buying their meds or using fans in the summer instead of air conditioning because they can’t afford the higher utility bills. What about single parent households?
(2) How are people who currently live paycheck to paycheck going to survive being quarantined two weeks or longer without paid time off? If the recommended quarantine period is 2 weeks, is it 10 weeks for a family of 5 or 12 weeks for a family of 6? Who pays their expenses after sick time is used? Short/long term disability insurance benefits?
(3) If a company shuts down what happen to employees? Who will step in? FEMA? If so, & if we have to avoid face to face contact, who’s going to do intake & provide funding to clients? I’m used to hurricane disaster relief & long term recovery, & this is already causing the same devastation to the family finances.
(4) Last, but certainly not least, are people taking their salvation as serious as their toilet paper stashes? I am personally clinging to what the Word of God says about protecting His children. I am abiding in the shadow of the Almighty. I am His.
More people die from H1N1 Coronavirus than Covid-19. And…… let’s not forget the other number one killers…. Heart Disease. Stroke. Cancer. Why aren’t we prepping or changing our lifestyles for the effects of these? Again…… I contribute this to social media craze.
Please do your part in minimizing or de-escalating the mania.
Practice common sense.
Practice being considerate of those who need help.
Practice faith in a God that already knew this would happen.