Showing posts from April, 2020


I write about healthcare but I'm not a nurse. A boxer for a year and a half, I like to borrow the sport's metaphors. I write extensively about powerlifting but can't get my bench past 135. I go on and on about abuse but haven't ever been hit. There are days when I think maybe this offends some people. As a writer, I use words to process the world first for myself, then for others. Images and paragraphs hover, swirling, until I sit to order them meaningfully. It is then that themes arise and I understand more deeply what I think and what I meant to say. In a time when sharing online through word and image is encouraged and abundantly present, there remains something special about the art form of constructing a sentence or composing a picture. The artist trains to see, to observe. Art is for all--anyone can and should paint, draw, dance and write--but skill elevates the form. I've noticed annoyance rise in me when prominent writers reverse a position/lifesty

COVID Diary 6

The Covid patients are lonely. Our gowns trap in body heat, the gloves are thinner than they were (we are out of the usual brand), the shields are disinfected with wipes you'd use on your kitchen counter (we are out of the hospital grade), the new masks collapse inward with each inhalation. Nurses are complaining of headaches and sore throats from the recycled, dry air. But the patients are lonely. I was sent to France during the war, they have buildings that run a city block, you have to see it if you can. What took you to England? Could I have my coffee heated up? May I have a blanket? The hospital provides iPads to facilitate Zoom meetings with providers and families for critical care patients--it's a new department that has popped up--but on my unit, the patients typically are able to communicate on their own. With exceptions like those with dementia, our patients know what they're missing. The lack of visitors wears on them, and they brighten and become talkati

COVID Diary 5

So what's it like in the hospital right now? It's calm where I've been--only four or so COVID rooms on my unit last weekend, and I've been pulled to other floors, like the ED, pretty regularly. We're preparing for the surge by rearranging units and redeploying workers to new departments. I trained in the intensive care unit (and at the hospital's training facility downtown) yesterday, because my floor has been named the coronavirus-care unit and is officially now an ICU. I learned to draw arterial blood, which requires remembering which switches to push/pull at which times. I have this tendency to use an unnecessary amount of strength for simple tasks, so of course I busted a syringe off its connector and spilled blood everywhere. But learning new tasks renewed my motivation for this work, which started out as just a job I needed to take. Just a job? I've always done creative work--oh, and personal training--but I ended up as a nurse tech/cardiac

COVID Diary 4

"I stopped him," she said, staring at the place where the fence used to be. "I took and put my babies where they'd be safe."  --BELOVED, by Toni Morrison Paul D tells her that her love is "too thick."  --SparkNotes "The uncomfortable truth is that I did not choose this life," says the protagonist. " It is inconvenient that I am in the category of the praised." Here we have a story in which identity and vocation attach to the plot 's sinews and strangle its details. Our protagonist was a theatre major; now she's a nurse technician. She was a respected weightlifting coach; now she is twice the age of her coworkers and treated as invisible. Gray roots form a halo that we are to believe she refuses to wear, to be disposed of with the one surgical mask allotted each twelve-hour shift. The COVID-19 pandemic sets the stage for this slightly unbelievable trajectory of events in the life of a middle-aged woman. While the

bring me a sword

And so they argued before the king He then gave an order Bring me a sword Please, give her the living baby! Don't kill him Neither I nor you should have him. Cut him in two Give the living baby to the first woman She is his mother

COVID Diary 3

I can count on one hand the number of times I've walked into the hospital unafraid. Even before COVID hit, the anxiety of being new to this field wanted to crush me; worse, once you've completed a few months on the job you can be pulled to other units, where everything is the same but also very different. Instinctively reach for a towel and it's not there. Go to grab a gauze pad to remove an IV and find yourself making jokes to cover the number of drawers you open. The day I was pulled to the emergency department, I felt like I'd entered another building; nothing was familiar, and here I was, at the end of a long eight hours, having to learn an entirely new job at peak pace. I wake up not knowing what my day will look like. The night-before panic is familiar, terrifying, and shouldn't be a surprise. Now, with COVID, staff are required to complete an online screening before each shift, either upon entering the hospital or at home a few hours before. Only two do