Letter to the Editor: 'Second of all, I'm a nurse. And I'm tired. I'm very, very tired.'
Second of all, I’m a nurse. And I’m tired. I’m very, very tired.
When hints of a global pandemic first appeared in news reports in late 2019, I and my co-workers didn’t know how to take it. We joked about it. We read what little was available about the nature of a coronavirus and its creeping tenacles across the planet. We restudied the 1918 Flu Pandemic and wondered if this viral hiccup was going to really interrupt our summer vacations.
The first hint of its “badness” for me was the night I arrived for my ER shift and was informed by sports fans that the NBA had suspended its season. Seriously?
Next came a flurry of mandated hospital classes on use of masks, gowns, gloves and sanitizers. They—the classes, the trainers, and the equipment—were inconvenient and an endless source of irritation. Afterall, we had already been overtrained to protect ourselves from SARS, EBOLA and Zika. Wear your PPEs – got it!
But this time was different. This time the flurry of preparations was only a faint whisper of the roaring tidal wave of disruption that was about to knock us off our feet and turn our sheltered little world upside-down.
This time, the pandemic was real.
By the end of March 2020 we were living in a hazy, confusing world of daily hospital emails redirecting hospital staff to different entrance doors, different temperature kiosks, different lunch lines and different elevators and hallways. Co-workers from other hospital departments were afraid to come close to the ER or even wave at us across the parking lot. At times, so were we.
Families of patients were shocked to find that they couldn’t visit their friends and families. “Wait in your car and we’ll call you” became the new, unbelievable response to the usual in-and-out traffic through the ER.
Nope. That didn’t go well.
But we made it through those early, frenzied months, because—just like any horror movie—we knew it was only a momentary inconvenience that would resolve in a month or two with scientific breakthroughs, one-shot cures, and a summer barbeque complete with a ceremonial burning of our masks and gowns after a thrilling speech by the President.
Afterall, how long could one little microscopic bug annoy this age of medical marvels?
Now, nearly two years later, I’m tired.
I’m fed up with wearing foul-smelling masks and dorky, fogging goggles.
I’m fed up with shifts with no breaks, and schedules with no hope in sight.
While most people remain understanding and civil, my fuse is growing shorter with each defensive patient who can’t understand “Why the delays?” and their upset families who can’t understand why we don’t let them wade through the germ-infested ER hallways with a cup of coffee.
I’m getting real annoyed with the endless “PING” of my cellphone text messages from the hospital, informing employees of URGENT staffing needs to care for sick hospital patients, now sometimes doubled up in rooms intended for single occupancy.
I’m tired and frustrated, because the holidays are again approaching, and my “Joy-o-Meter” is resting on empty.
At times I feel I’ve been splattered by a million angry opinions about COVID and then left to pick out the right one. I dunno. Does my opinion even matter? Does anyone’s opinion matter?
Look, I’m not trying to convince anyone to get vaccinated or wear masks or stay home. I’m way too tired to do that, and no one is listening anymore anyway.
I’m only suggesting that maybe we are all missing a larger message.
Because first of all, I believe in an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God. In fact, I’m a Christian. And as I survey the landscape of never-ending mask debates and rancorous vaccine arguments and frustrated patients and their angry families, I find myself calling out, “God? Are You trying to tell us something?”
When airplanes exploded through the Trade Center towers on 9/11/01, we responded with disbelief and shock. We realized our helplessness in the situation, and suddenly churches were packed and resounding with pleas for help.
On that unbelievable day two decades ago, 2,977 people died. We came together as a nation and—if only for a little while—we stood together as one. We rose up to help and support each other in any way possible. For a while, we were the better for it as a nation.
As of today (Dec. 8), 5,262,849 people have died of COVID worldwide, including 790,040 in the US and 9,823 in Minnesota. Except for the sobs of families who lost loved ones, all I mostly hear is anger. Anger and the never-ending chant about “My rights!” to go wherever, do whatever, see whoever, be whatever.
“Rights?” Really? What does a virus care about our rights? And is that all we’re going to take away from this pandemic if and when it ever ends—who “won” or “lost” the epic battle of Rights?
I’m just one human. One tired, graying nurse. But I know the Creator and I believe He still moves in this world.
As of tonight, I’m going to put a candle in my window. Just a small little symbol to show I still believe. I still believe there is a Light in this world Who can bring healing out of our global pandemic sickness, and peace out of our mounting frustrated anger.
A single candle to remind me to pray for healing in this hurting world.
I feel knocked down, but I believe that I can still rise one more time. I can love my neighbors, and care for my patients because of the One who still loves me and gives me the strength to get out of bed one more time.
Because most of all, I believe I’m a child of God. And no virus can ever change that.