“It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed”Doe Zantamata
Sooo….what a roller-coaster of a year 2020 has been so far. Phew! The past months have not only been unusual but also particularly difficult for most people – more so front-line workers like myself. Very strange and unusual times we’re living in.
What with the virus wreaking havoc across the nations. These are unprecedented times. Indeed distressing and deeply saddening times.
I’ve not written anything on this blog in a long time. Since March to be precise. Life has been hectic. Our world has been suddenly changed by the virus pandemic. As I said, I’m a front-line worker. A nurse in a big bustling hospital. I’m in direct contact with the virus.
Do I feel scared? Of course I’m terrified. So is the vast majority if not everyone.
A lot of lives have been lost and some changed in a big way. Much pain has been felt. The pain of losing loved ones. The feeling of helplessness. Not being physically present to hold the hands of loved ones in such time of need was heartbreaking. Not being there in those last days, those last moments was extremely upsetting and painful. They died alone and scared.
Today I worked on the Critical Care Unit commonly known as ITU. I’m not a trained ITU nurse….so how did I end up here? Well, it’s actually the second time in 2 weeks that I’ve had to be re-deployed to this unit. It’s common practice nowadays to find yourself working on wards or settings you never would have dreamed of working before the pandemic.
The last time I worked on ITU I developed nasty blisters on my feet. I had to take some time off to allow the horrible blisters to heal. In fact I’ve just returned to work. This is my second shift.
ITU is a very surreal place – unlike any other ward in the hospital. Patients are intubated and paralyzed whilst receiving treatment. The patients are too sick and require additional oxygen and assistance to breathe.
With my white coverall on top of my royal blue scrubs, tightly-fitted 3M face mask, visor, net hair cover, overshoes and up to 3 pairs of gloves – I’m ready to deliver some duty of care. I’m assigned a patient to look after. A male patient in his 70’s – intubated and paralyzed.
My mentor (a regular ITU nurse) quickly explains and demonstrates what I’m expected to do for the patient and disappears to receive and attend to yet another patient who’s just been brought in. Hours go by tending to my paralyzed and intubated patient.
I give regular verbal reassurances and explain every nursing intervention despite knowing fully well that I would not get any verbal response or acknowledgement. As I grimly watch and monitor the life support system machines and tubes connected to the patient, I know his life hangs in the balance – his chances of leaving this unit alive are very slim.
The ‘personal protective equipment’ (PPE) is becoming very uncomfortable. I’m literally boiling and sweating buckets. My break time is only an hour on a 12-hour shift. This is a most welcome relief. A chance to peel off the uncomfortably hot and sweaty PPE. Grab a bite to eat and a refreshing drink. One quick check at messages and notifications on my mobile phone before handing it back for safe keeping and rushing back to the unit.
Donning and doffing PPE is a lengthy and mostly frustrating process. Once on, the heat, the sweat and claustrophobia all kick in. Once PPE is on, I avoid having a drink because I dread the subsequent bladder works and the frustrating process of donning and doffing PPE that comes with it all. So I hold off drinking until home time – some 5/6 hours away.
Dehydrated and sweaty, I dutifully carry out the call of duty for hours more.
End of shift. Handover done. I eagerly peel off the horrible PPE and immediately it feels like the best thing ever. I quickly grab my bag and coat and head for the exit. Once out of the hospital building, a blast of fresh air against my hot sweaty skin feels like heaven.
I allow myself to take deep breaths of the fresh air, filling my ‘fresh-air deprived’ lungs. “Nothing could be better than this” I muse to myself. I head for my car. The vast car park is unusually quiet and empty. Sitting in my car feels good as I chug down some bottled water. With my dehydrated body now resuscitated I feel a rush of life surge through me. The gentle music soothes my tired and troubled soul as I head home.
Once home, I follow a now regular routine. Strip off my clothes and shoes on entering our home and straight to the shower. The shower feels good on my hot and sticky skin. Refreshing and almost life-giving. As I wash my face it feels rough and uneven. Thanks to the tightly-fitting 3M mask and visor/face shield – their imprints a testimony and reminder of my very close contact with the virus.
How has living through the pandemic changed me?
I’m glad things appear to be improving in terms of new infections and deaths rate. Still, we remember those who lost their lives to this monster virus. Loved ones, neighbours and colleagues.
Personally, I have learned a few things about life. I now perceive life somewhat differently to what I did before the virus pandemic. Yes, the virus pandemic has certainly changed the things I value in life. Life is precious. Family and friends are precious and should be prioritized. Being healthy and fit should be prioritized.
I now look for the good in everything. I look at what I have in my life and I appreciate it. No matter how small or insignificant it may appear. I will work with what I have to get to where I would like to be. I will learn to be content and grateful for what life has given me. I will enjoy life today – with what I have today.
I also realize that self-reliance and preparedness is the ultimate freedom. The ability to prepare for life’s mishaps and live independent of systems and ways that are fallible. Systems and ways that collapse in the face of sustained disaster leaving you vulnerable. Freedom is now my goal. I will find it and live it.
Live life to the full