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 doors to the hospital are open, and they are staffed as checkpoints where screenshots of green marks are verified with our badge, and hands are sanitized. I'm okay to work. Am I okay to work?

The sidewalk leading up to the doors is covered in colorful chalk messages. You got this! Thank you for what you do!

I have managed to stay on this side of the front lines since sending away my kids. I've walked right up to the door but have not gone through. But my unit is now being fitted to function as an ICU, and emails give us guidelines on post-mortem care for COVID-19 patients.

We're hearing July. The peak of the hospital surge is expected then.

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When I was a boxer, I didn't talk about the dangers. I worried when the headache stuck around for a day or two, but even then I couldn't admit to myself that getting hit in the head is kind of a dumb idea.

The Flying Wallendas do not go on and on about the dangers of walking the wire. They talk about preparation and the peace of floating at the top of the world.

Because a freefall into fear would render their feats impossible.

Healthcare workers can't tell you their true fears, or they wouldn't be able to step into the abyss of this pandemic. Many are honest, many will confide to each other, but you're just not going to hear all the fear that's out there because they simply can't. That's what I've seen. We laugh and complain through our days like they're any other, but we know the sacrifice.

You can't talk that way when you're in the thick of it, or you jeopardize the miracle.

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This coronavirus reminds me of my son's type 1 diabetes.

Theo can count every carb with precision and do perfect math for a bolus of insulin, but diabetes doesn't care. And then some days, despite wild guesswork, his blood sugar is near perfect. You approach each day knowing that your efforts may have no effect but you give it your all anyway, because there's really no other choice.

We can do everything right and still catch COVID-19. But we must give it our all, because there's really no other choice.

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I had a couple walks outside with the kids. I disinfect the handle of the dog's leash and Theo wears gloves. They stand far away from me. God, it sucks.

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Yesterday I was pulled to a different unit of the hospital. One of my patients had just been told that he needed another procedure, that a third bag would hang from the outside of his body to aid the inside. He lashed out, seeing these life-altering amendments to his body more as a sinister plot than necessity. He couldn't face that his body had failed him, and in a time when the isolation imposed by the no-visitors policy was severe.

"I'm sick of this shit," he told me. "I want to see my kids."

"I know," I said. "We want to think that if we do everything right, we can control what happens. But our bodies betray us. This is so hard for you right now, and I'm sorry."

His rage intimidated some of the staff. But I heard the fear and sat with it, absorbing the blows.


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