One Day in April: Reflections of a nurse during the virus pandemic

“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.

Sunday 19.04.20

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

What Stickability Really Looks Like

We fall. We break. We fail….But then, we rise, we heal, we overcome.

Greta ThunbergLustig

In November last year I decided to get serious with my exercise routine. I decided to walk 15 kilometres a day, 4 days a week (the other 3 days I work on busy hospital wards with lots of physical activity during my 12 hour shifts).

My feet hurt. They ached as a result of my gruelling 15K walk. I could barely walk after my exercise. I expected the pain to subside after 2 to 3 weeks. But, hell no!

It looked like the pain was getting worse, if anything.

I soon realised that if I didn’t do something to minimise or stop the crippling pain, I would quit my 15K walk in its infancy. Yes, the ‘babywas at risk of being aborted!

During my 15K walk, my feet did not hurt at all. Now, that’s strange – right? Well, not really.

Apparently, what I was experiencing is called “plantar fasciitis” – pain on the bottom of your feet. During exercise the pain is better but gets worse after resting

By the way – I would do a good 10 minutes or so of stretches after my 15K walk but this did not help the pain at all.

Anyhow, I set out to find a solution to ease my aching feet – before I quit.

Believe me, when you hurt like I did, the thought of quitting is always on your mind. This one part of me just wanted out nowI could hear it screaming at me to ‘stop now‘!

I was tempted to hang my ‘boots’ and call it quits. Who would blame me? It looked like the right thing to do.

I grudgingly entertained the thought of taking a break from it all – to allow my feet to heal. However, I knew that taking a break may be the beginning of quitting – (I know this because I’ve been ‘there’ many times before – ‘quittersland‘).

The other part of me knew I had to carry on – no matter what!

The pain is temporary‘ I would reassure myself. I believed the pain would soon disappear. Strength would soon replace the pain. I had to keep on keeping on.

Anyway, ‘fast forward‘….

I found some helpful tips on how to relieve sore feet. In no time, I decided to dip my feet in hot/warm water for 2 minutes. After which I would then dip them in cold water for another 2 minutes. This brought immediate relief to my achy feet.

Apparently, this method works by ‘opening and closing the veins in your feet promoting proper blood circulation. The improved circulation helps relieve sore feet You can also add some essential oils to the water in which you intend to soak your feet.

Unfortunately for me, the relief was short-lived. The pain returned. And, I couldn’t bear it.

Remember Stickability and Forget Quitability

Eraa Khannapiraan

I decided to cut back on the distance I was walking. I went from 15K to 10K – a distance I walk in just under 2 hours. I walk some and run some – it’s what I prefer and it works well for me. Maybe one day I will be able to run all the way.

With the distance now adjusted, my feet didn’t hurt as much and I was happier. I was gifted a foot massage machine – thanks to the husband. Good ‘investment‘. I also decided to set a daily target of 12000 steps on my mobile phone app. I don’t always hit my target when I’m at work but I aim for at least 6000 steps.

Since I started my regular exercise routine, I’m experiencing some amazing health benefits such as:

  • Energy boost: before my exercise routine I felt lethargic most of the time. I would hardly move from the sofa on my ‘off’ days. But, now I have lots of energy and I’m getting more done for myself and my family.
  • Improved mood: I’m experiencing reduced stress and improved self-esteem.
  • I now sleep better at night.
  • The niggling aches and pains in my body have all but disappeared.

These immediate health benefits of my daily exercise routine urge me to carry on this valuable habit – no matter what. I persevere and keep encouraging myself to exercise whether I feel like it or not. I would have quit but I decided to stay the course. I decided to stick with it though I was in excruciating pain.

The moral of the story is, remain resolute in your goals. Outlast whatever opposition you encounter on the journey to your desired lifestyle. You’ll come out victorious and live the life of your dreams.

Live life to the full