Well, I guess that’s it, huh? CDC said we can go without masks (to the vaccinated), and you see businesses everywhere taking down their “masks required” signs. Disney World is taking advantage of our good numbers in the U.S., and while I’m just as excited as anybody to return to a normal, pre-covid world, I’m also having a hard time.
When mask mandates fall, plexiglass partitions are taken down, and social distancing requirements are slackened, it doesn’t just usher in the happy feelings of going back to the good ole days like I would hope. You see, it also feeds the wrong fires, and it perpetuates bad theory.
Who doesn’t know someone who thinks COVID-19 was a political ploy?! Like, I could probably count on both hands, and have to take off my shoes too, to total the Facebook friends who are certain the pandemic was an attempt at government control of its people; without them even noticing that a lot of the behavior in 2020 proved maybe a little government overreach was necessary. But that’s another topic. No wonder the Podcast I listened to earlier called social media “Satan’s cesspool.”
Point is, as the pandemic blows over, the chance of forgetting its seriousness flies away like the wind as well. It’s easier to lessen the virus when it’s not affecting anyone you know. When it’s a distant, news story from India, it’s fairly simple to blame the Democrats for going overboard to keep people safe. Heck, you could even believe COVID-19 was never really a big deal. Except… it was. To me, it was.
I am a critical care nurse, and in the year 2020 I experienced the worst year of my nursing career. I would even go so far as to say it was worse than my time in the military, in a post 9/11 world, watching scores of young men medevaced to my facility with only one limb remaining. At least the brave soldiers I saw in my stateside care lived. Not so with the Covid pandemic.
I personally saw hundreds in our facility’s care die. Not just old people, or people with multiple health problems. I especially remember the mother of three children who was younger than me. I tried to warn her she might die if she didn’t lay in a prone position. At the time, it was the thing that seemed to help those patients the most. The next day, she was intubated. A week later, she was gone. It was like that for way too many patients this past year.
I watched my coworker dress out in PPE to hug her husband goodbye before he died. I cried on the phone with more family members than my heart could take. I saw the hope go out of otherwise strong men’s eyes. Each day they fought in vain to breathe, the light in their eyes dimmed more and more. It was a fight they couldn’t win. And sadly it was a fight the nursing community couldn’t win either.
As a nurse, my job is to make people better. In my twenty years of nursing, I did a two year stint in Hospice Nursing. Y’all, I loved it. It was extremely rewarding to care for patients and families during a difficult end of life experience. I was able to prepare, support, and comfort them. All that to say, it wasn’t the morgue being too full to take any more bodies that got to me. As a nurse, I can handle patients dying. The problem with the past year was, they all died. If you came into the intensive care unit, you were only leaving in a bag! Back to the counting fingers… I can count on one hand how many patients got to leave my critical care unit alive. That’s bad odds.
Nursing care is about helping. No one wanted to die of COVID-19! They wanted to live! And when we became (like) Hospice nurses to patients and families who had not requested those services, it was debilitating to the morale. Y’all, I still have PTSD-like response from 2020. My actions, even now, as the virus statistics improve, are impacted negatively by the trauma I experienced watching patients die, over and over, every shift, day after day.