Closing the COVID Diary

It's my last week at the hospital, and I'm remembering.

I remember thinking they had made a mistake.

"Does it seem right to you that I was hired as a nurse tech?" I asked my friend Suzanne, an RN. "Do they understand I've never done anything like this before in my life?"

I remember when I didn't know a second degree heart block from a junctional rhythm, or a catheter from a cannula.

I remember when we'd discard disposable masks. I'd wear several dozen a day. Once I donned an N95, realized the patient wasn't on a BiPAP, took off the N95 and threw it away.

I remember when techs from other floors didn't look at me with awe and curiosity when I told them what floor I work on.

I remember the first covid patient and hoping I wouldn't ever have to go in that room.

I remember when I could breathe freely throughout a work day.

I remember when I wasn't a hero.

A hospital room is a short story-- a contained ecosystem of flesh, disease, history and hope. Two patients may have the same condition, and one will hurl insults while the other apologizes asking for water. Two patients may have attempted suicide and one reflects on her life while the other chews the inside of his mouth in order to spit blood at you. Bodies can grow so large for so long that the skin becomes as rough as the synthetic surface of a basketball. Where the folds meet, the fat tissue will flatten, like dough divided by a knife.

There is an odor to bodies. Not what you know, but a warmth that grows to fill a room in proportion to the body's size. Its essence demands to be met and understood.

What I understand now, 11 months later and on the eve of a new position, is that bodies do not conform to any one standard. I had worked in gyms for years and knew this, but there is a clarity now. The striving to blow up this muscle or the next--we get only one body. We are sentient beings clothed in viscera and tissue and we are fine as we are. I'm speaking of appearance, because this viscera and tissue can betray us, and we will need care, and appearance won't matter then.

I remember not knowing that if you take too many pills and don't succeed in dying, you will find yourself supervised 24 hours a day in a hospital room. You will watch Pixar movies and Fast & Furious together, and the attendant will be there when your mother arrives to have an intimate conversation. Unless visitors aren't allowed, that is--then the two of you will be all alone, all day.

Even when you start feeling better, you don't decide your fate; the social worker does. You will be drenched as the pills work their way through your pores. This has a smell.

Doctors are not gods. Nurses are heroes. I remember not knowing this.

Of all the jobs I've held, never before have I felt more capable and useful. Of everything I've done, being a hospital worker is most like being a boxer: there is a team but you alone must be ready to fight, enduring every second until the final bell.

I remember when I never dreamed there would be a stethoscope around my neck. That I would be a part of history.

I remember when I was a hero.

The diary starts back here
Most recent diary entry here
Original story here


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