COVID Diary 1

As a way to continue the story I told in this essay on Medium, I plan on using my blog to keep a diary of the days spent working in a hospital during the COVID-19 crisis while in a self-imposed quarantine from my kids. I anticipate--no, plan on--freeform thoughts rather than my usual essays, so that I can write when I'm tired and not care about syntax or themes.


I found a little 3x5 memo book and decided to list out jobs I've had. With one page per job, I'm up to 25. Here you will find elementary school drama teacher, church secretary, reptile handler. Personal trainer, children's choir manager, stage manager. I quit Wendy's at 17 after a month; grease and contact lenses don't mix. I quit all of the jobs, I guess you could say, except writer and nurse tech. I still don't understand why I haven't yet left hospital work. It's not my chosen profession, and the apocalypse is nigh. But something inside me is saying don't leave now.

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Yesterday I spent eight hours "assisting staff in donning and doffing PPE, assuring fit and integrity of PPE." With the flashy title of Hot Zone Boss, I stood outside the room of a COVID-19 patient to help staff remember the lengthy list of instructions, which have to be followed in a particular order to keep everyone safe. Details like tying the backs of gowns are easy to forget, because we've tied so many gowns at the neck and hadn't needed to bother past that. Cuffs on gowns need to be pulled down far enough so that gloves can come up past the edge. When a doctor or nurse leave a room, I hold out a container for them to deposit their face shields, goggles, blood sugar meters and anything else that needs to come out. I'm only to touch the outside of the container, and they're only allowed to touch the inside. After checking that they've followed the right order, I disinfect the face shields, goggles and container, and I wipe down the outside of the door. Though I'll never see the patient, I can hear his coughs through the crack in the door. I can hear the news rattling on about COVID-19.

There was a lot of sitting and pacing between staff visits, but I didn't mind. I tried to spend some of my time sending prayers inside through the thick doors but that didn't feel right, in the same way that it doesn't feel right to quit this job. Instead it's as if I am a guard rather than a healer. I'm not saying I can make you better, but I'm saying I'm here, I've got your back, you're safe.

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Where I was scared before, I feel content now. This can only be due to knowing that because the kids are gone, I can't pass any of this virus on to them. There is still the fear that I can't protect them while they're away from me. I can't fill that pit in my stomach and I can't remove the vice that grips my head until they're back. But working on my unit I'm okay. I trust the PPE, or maybe I simply trust fate. I hear nurses talk about sending their spouses and babies away, too. Some aren't concerned but add that they certainly won't risk visiting their aging parents or those who are compromised. When I arrive at the hospital I have to ask what I'll be doing and where they're sending me, as even on a normal day I'm not guaranteed to work in my normal capacity on my floor as a tech or in the cardiac monitoring center. On Sunday I panicked, worrying that I'd sent my kids away when I might be working safely away from the virus, and could have had one more day with them. But then I learned I'd be posted outside of the room, standing guard on my first real day as a solider in the war that separates families.

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No one can have visitors, not just the COVID patients. The curtains have been removed from our unit's rooms as a precautionary measure. I worry about the effect of this distancing on patients' healing. Healthcare workers carry an already tremendous burden and now must function as friend, family, therapist, healer.

Two months is what I'm hearing.

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