What is That Sound?

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Rays of hope shining through gray skies.

Over a month ago

Thump, thump!  Staccato steps hurried down the hall.

“She is wearing a mask,” my coworker whispered.  Seeing the patient in the hallway, she ducked into our office to distance herself.

In the setting of a pandemic, I thought it’d be normal to see people wearing masks.

But I understood. We were all a little scared.

~ ~ ~

Clink. 

Forks dropped against porcelain plates in the sink, as my husband washed dishes at home.  “What if one of us gets sick? Who will care for our kids?” He worked in the hospital, and they were preparing for the worst.

Clank. “If you get sick now, there will be a ventilator if you need one, before we run out.”

Clunk. The sharp clanging pierced my ears. I turned away. I had experienced respiratory distress before; it felt like an elephant sitting on my chest, while trying to breathe through a straw.  “I don’t want to be on a ventilator,” I exhaled.

~  ~ ~

Three weeks ago

Ring, ring, ring

Calling my patients, wearing sweatshirt and sweatpants, felt bizarre. I never imagined I’d be hanging up my scrubs during a time of great need.  With my medical history, I was considered high risk, and thankful to work from home.

But my husband was still on the frontlines.  He worked extra shifts to cover his colleagues who had been quarantined.

Ring, ring, ring

“It’s here,” he called, from the hospital. Monitors beeped in the background.  “I could see it in my colleague’s eyes. They were wide open, in panic.  The patients are really sick.”

“What’s here?” I asked.

“The chaos… of coronavirus.”

 ~ ~ ~

Two weeks ago

Ding!

“Any message for our nursing school selves?” the text message read. Despite graduating awhile ago, and living in different states,  my former nursing school classmates and I recently reconnected to support each other, virtually.

“I have one: run! Become non-essential by 2019,” the pediatric nurse advised.

“You will be reusing masks. Don’t worry it will be okay…maybe?” the maternity nurse suggested.

As we chatted, we shared our worries about the contagiousness of the virus, our obligation and duty to serve our patients, the critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the risks that posed for our families.  We all had young children at home.

“…I do not feel very heroic at all.”

Ding!

“Messy hair, don’t care.” The next day, the pediatric nurse sent a selfie with little strands of hair sticking up behind the straps of her surgical mask.

“Today I burped in my mask and it was a disaster,” the maternity nurse mentioned. She had always been the silly one back in school.

“#pandemicproblems”

~ ~ ~

One week ago

Buurrrrppp

“I just burped into my mask again. Nightmare.” In the selfie, her eyebrows were raised as she squirmed from behind her teal N95.

“Here’s the silver lining: you have a mask to burp into…”  the pedi nurse reassured her.

Then, a slight pause.

“Do you get a new one daily?”

“No. They’re recycled. Sterilized with UV light. I think up to 5 times.”

In our group chat, I recounted to them a conversation my husband and I had that day. He had seen a patient, suspicious for COVID19, who was coughing uncontrollably.  When I had asked him if he had an N95, he shook his head. “I couldn’t find one. I only had a mask with a face shield.”

“What! That’s terrible! If I find some, can I send him one?” the pedi nurse offered.

“You are too kind.. but y’all need them too! Protect yourselves!”

~ ~ ~

One Friday night

Drip, drop, drip… Sheets of soft rain splashed onto the deck outside our house. The rain masked the ring from my phone.

“My patient is too sick, I can’t go home yet. He needs to transfer to the ICU, but he’s not stable. Sorry I’ll be home late.”

Listening to the voicemail, I sighed.  With one baby on one hip and my toddler circling around my other leg, it was 7pm and my energy had been depleted.

Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap

WHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap

Narrowing my brows, my head perked up.  What is that sound?  Opening the front door, the sounds became more clear.

“THANK YOU!!!! WHOOOOOOO!!!! THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO!!!!!!!” shouted my neighbors, as they clapped and cheered while standing upon their porches, across the street.

“THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!! WE APPRECIATE YOU!!” my other neighbor waved with her hands high above her head, towards my direction. She too stood at her porch.

Blasting songs from a speaker over his shoulder, and wearing gigantic grins on their faces, our neighbors who lived further down the street swung their hips and bobbed their heads as they danced under the rain, approaching our house.

“Thank youuuuu…..” the couple called out from the center of the street, over the rain and music, then shimmied their way back.

Rumbling from behind my cheeks, waves of gratitude washed over me. It was like a tsunami ready to rush out, to escape from my eyelids.

This deluge of support from our neighbors reminded me that whether we fight this virus at work,  or we fight this virus by staying home…

we are not alone.

We fight this, together.

~ ~ ~

*If you would like to help front line workers in getting PPE, please help sign this petition and also visit #GetusPPE ‘s  advocacy page on additional ways to demand our government for more protection for our healthcare workers. Thank you!

 

 

5 thoughts on “What is That Sound?

  1. It’s always good to hear from you. I’ve been wondering how you’ve been coping during all of this. Crazy times, but a wakeup call for the nation and govts to see how we are weak and where we need to put our focus. Take care!

  2. It makes me angry that medical personnel on the front line are expected to deal with whatever crisis comes up with whatever they have available and their agencies/companies/governments don’t prioritize giving them what they need to be effective and safe. To see professionals wearing garbage bags and homemade masks for protection because they have no access to PPE’s is a disgrace for all management at the top.
    I am grateful that there was enough consideration involved to allow high risk staff such as yourself to be able to work from home.
    We can only hope that this crisis will result in standard policies being put in place so this kind of late to the gate uncoordinated response won’t repeat down the line in the future.

    • yes!! you nailed it. are you running for office? if so i will vote for you. how do we make that happen? seriously the failed government response and lack of standardization and coordination between city/state/national level.. .it’s just appalling. i have no words.

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