I had chest pain this week and had to go to the hospital. I went to a large teaching hospital in a major city. I dread going to any ER but now with all the Covid-19 patients, I really didn’t want to go. I put on a mask went in. In retrospect I should have put on a N95 mask but the chest pain was so bad that I guess I wasn’t thinking straight. Once i was dropped off I got in line and tried not to touch anything. The waiting area had been divided in half with plastic but both sides were totally full. I found out later that the idea was to keep all the COVID patients together on one side and the other patients on the other. Unfortunately there were so many COVID patients that both sides of the waiting room were full with COVID patients. The triage nurse sorted the patients and kept everyone organized. It was pretty amazing. She juggled a man demanding a Japanese translator, a woman having a miscarriage and about 30 COVID patients. And me.
It seemed like every person ahead of me in line was COVID positive. I wondered how long I could hold my breath. Luckily when I said I had chest pain, they took me in the back for an EKG. Since the internal waiting rooms were also full of COVID patients, they put me in an ER bay. I closed the glass doors and sanitized my hands. I don’t know which had me most scared, the chest pain or COVID patients.
When my nurse came in, she was wearing her standard PPE. She had on an N95 mask, a surgical mask, goggles, face shield, gloves, hair bonnet and a yellow gown. She smiled, reassured me and got to work. How in the world do these people work with all that on? She started an IV without missing a beat. A series of physicians came and went, all dressed head to toe in PPE. Housekeeping stopped in wearing their PPE. Everyone smiled and just did their jobs. No one complained or cut corners. They just did their jobs. Some were working extended shifts. Many skipped their breaks and lunch. They just did their jobs.
Since March when the pandemic began, we have lost 1700 health care workers to COVID. Just for comparison, 84 police officers were lost in 2019. When many of our police and fireman die in the line of duty, we try to support their families. They get posthumous promotions, funeral procession to honor them and more. We thank them, We honor them. We show the world how grateful we are for their sacrifice.
In my opinion ALL healthcare workers from housekeeping to physicians are more than heroes. They are superheroes. Every single one of them. They just shut up and get to work. Somehow my nurse found the time and energy to reassure me, compliment my nail polish and offer me something to eat. My ER physician went on a hunt to find me a pillow. Someone brought me water.
I ended up staying the night in the ER. Late at night I heard the staff teasing one another and talking about their families. Someone announced a nurse’s birthday on the overhead speaker. Staff throughout the ER clapped. They truly cared about one another. They were a team. They had each other’s backs.
At the beginning of the pandemic the hospital had set up a testing station close to where I park when I drop Jolene off. Early in the morning I would see the staff setting up for a long and dangerous day of testing patients. Then I saw the nurses form a circle to stretch and do some jumping jacks. Then they did something that shocked me.
They laughed. They elbow bumped. They created joy.
Then they got down to work.
After a few weeks of this they even made a video of their dance routine and it was shown on the ELLEN show.
I worked in a hospital for 30 years. Although I am not a nurse, I get it. They form bonds and families with their coworkers. I can only compare it to the bond soldiers have going into battle together. They do things they never thought they could. They see things they wish they could forget. They hear the primal cries of people finding out someone they love is gone. They hold the hands of patients dying alone. They watch multiple patients die on a single shift. Then they just go home and make dinner.
When you work in healthcare you know on a certain level there are risks. Years ago it was hepatitis, then HIV but no one ever anticipated this. They worry about bring COVID home to their kids and elderly parents. They do their very best to protect their patients, their staff, their families and themselves. Many will deal with PTSD from all this.
But they just keep doing their jobs.
Thank you is just not enough.
They look like just normal people but they are much more than that.
They are superheroes.
Don”t make their jobs any harder.
Please, Please…Just wear that mask.