|That one brave bud, waiting to open...|
March took an ugly turn, didn’t it…
A little disclaimer – I generally try to keep this blog on the light side. I don’t like to talk about the fact that I am a registered nurse. My nurse life is very separate from my home life.
Welcome to the World of Covid-19.
(Don’t give up. This is not a depressing post. Remember the title – HOPE!)
For most of us, this is the first, and hopefully only Worldwide Pandemic we will ever see. There have been other World Health Risks – AIDS, SARS, Ebola, N1H1. But none of these have reached this level. Nothing since the Spanish Flu of 1918.
I have been thinking about what to post for several weeks now. My first love has always been journalism, although I am a terrible ‘journal-er’. But, after seeing a post on Facebook regarding the importance of keeping a personal journal through the coming days from the perspective of a historian, I have returned to the dreaded Journal. (Mr. Pillman, my junior high English/comp teacher would be so proud.)
So, here it is.
We are on Day 7 of a Shelter At Home order by the State of Illinois. Prior to that everyone had been asked to Social Distance due to the high probability of spread of the Coronovirus.
But this started long before March 20, 2020.
The following is a personal timeline –
December 2019 – we begin hearing of a virus coming from WuHan China.
Life through January is the usual on the Coast of Illinois. Work, appointments, birthdays. Planning for Mardi Gras. There is talk at work of this epidemic possibility. But mostly I am obsessed with the arrival and subsequent torture that is the new exercise bike. (see the previous post…)
January 31, 2020 – President Trump bans foreign nationals from entering the US if they were in China during the prior two weeks.
We celebrate our 35th anniversary at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis. As always, it is lovely, dinner is delicious.
|At Cinder House, Four Seasons St Louis|
February 7, 2020 – Dr. Li Wenlaing dies of Coronovirus. (He was one of the first to warn the Chinese government of this dangerous virus.
I am driving home from work and hear the report on NPR. We continue to live our lives. We have family dinner on Sunday night. I take a trauma re-certification class the following week. We have our bi-annual Mardi Gras party on February 15. Serious talk of the epidemic is more common.
February 29, 2020 – A nursing home in Seattle is announced to have numerous patients and staff infected and the United States reports its first COVID-19 death.
My husband and I spend the afternoon at the St. Louis Art Museum. We see the special exhibit – Millet and Modern Art. I spend most of my time studying Starry Night by Van Gogh. Seeing such a piece of art in person literally takes my breath away.
|This doesn't do justice to the art. The lights seemed to radiate outward from the painting|
We wander the Grand Basin and take note of people ‘social distancing’. There are conversations overheard regarding the ridiculousness of how much hype the virus is getting. That evening we have an impromptu dinner at Mineo’s – one of our favorite restaurants – and listen to Brian Clarke perform – one of our favorites. We hear the news of the Seattle nursing home and I know, deep down, that life will change. Suddenly this day, this evening is just that much more meaningful.
|Brian, the performer and Bridget, the owner of Mineo's|
March comes in with its usual schizophrenic weather. Work is ridiculously busy, and everyone is a little edgy whenever a respiratory isolation patient makes it into our unit.
March 6, 2020
My husband and two friends pick me up after work. We attend the Dean Christopher show at the Blue Strawberry. Dean is a fantastic Dean Martin impersonator and the Blue Strawberry is a unique, intimate supper club style venue in St. Louis.
We laugh about this being the last time we all get together for a very long time.And after my tirade about how stupid work was our friend shuts me down with - And how was the rest of the play, Mrs. Lincoln....best comeback ever!
March 8, 2020 – Italy locks down.
Somewhere in here people in the United States begin hoarding toilet paper. Toilet paper doesn't come from Italy. Why aren't we hoarding spaghetti sauce and Chianti?
The comedic possibilities are endless…
Rob and I take a trip to Grafton Winery, along the Great River Road. Another of our favorite places. Another ‘last’ for a while.
March 13, 2020 – all Illinois schools close and parents everywhere regret that decision.
I get a haircut, after checking to be sure my stylist is still working. After that I do a grocery shopping. I am amazed that the shelves are stocked full of toilet paper, although things like lunch meat and frozen pizzas and fresh meat are gone. There are plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. I thank heaven that we tend to ‘eat the perimeter’ of the store. I will eventually regret my decision NOT to buy a 6 pack of Charmin.
March 16, 2020 – Illinois Governor Pritzker closes ALL bars and restaurants except for carry-out or delivery.
Rob attempts to pick up Chinese carry-out but our little restaurant is not open, even though the sign in the window is on. This leads to much yelling in the back, and no black pepper chicken. Which turns out to be okay as we had hoped to make this a dinner and a movie night and watch the old move China Town while eating our delicious food. No one told me there was very little actual CHINA TOWN in the move CHINA TOWN.
He picks up Lilly’s gyros instead.
If nothing else, we are supportive of our local establishments.
Our work schedule is beginning to dwindle. I work at a 1000+bed hospital in St. Louis. We see an average of 60-80 surgeries a day. There is talk of stopping all elective procedures and in preparation we begin to see the decline. Our numbers decrease slowly to 40, then 30. I am on-call as back up one day and don’t get called in – a rare event.
March 20, 2020 - Illinois Governor Pritzker declares a Shelter in Place order for the state of Illinois. Beginning at 5pm on Saturday, March 21.
I am at work. I ask if this means I am exempt from returning. This is met with a resounding Facial Expression that answers any other questions. We have a family lunch on Saturday, which allows our kids to come over and then go home before the lockdown starts. I have not been in contact with any obvious COVID patients at this point, but I know that this will be changing. I don’t want to admit that this will be our last family dinner for a while. Once I am in the general population of patient care – removed from surgical recovery – I am at a much higher risk of bringing the virus home.
This was not a good weekend. My emotions ran the gamut. I power cleaned the house. I set up a ‘quarantine’ area downstairs in case I need to keep myself away from my husband. I pack a bag to take to work with a few essentials should I be required to ‘quarantine’ there.
I realize I am way to good at spelling ‘quarantine’.
So, here we are. Day 7 of Shelter in Place. Our toilet paper supply is dwindling. Rob took advantage of the 60 and older shopping hours earlier this week but to no avail. The bathroom tissue aisle is still a wasteland. Even the Great and Powerful Amazon can not guarantee delivery next day...
Our work schedule has diminished to an average of 20 patients. This means a lot of displaced staff. I spent a day screening people as they entered the hospital. We are no longer allowing visitors in. Try telling the family of a brain surgery patient they can’t wait nearby…
I spent several hours cleaning one of the shut down areas of our recovery unit. We are all studying up on inpatient charting as our computer charting is much different in the peri-op area. People are shadowing in the ED and ICUs as preparation for the patient surge that is likely. We are all shell-shocked.
I was lucky enough to get an extra day off yesterday. It’s a good thing. I spent the day before fighting back what promised to be a World Class Nervous Breakdown. The sun peeked out a bit. JoeyKatt and I sat on the couch yesterday morning and watched a robin begin to build a nest right outside our living room window. and I spent the afternoon cleaning up some flower beds.
Plants are beginning to peak out of the ground, leaves are beginning to green up.
Spring is slowly arriving and with it the HOPE of a new start.
Life is different now.
We all are experiencing this in our own ways.
While we may not have toilet paper, we can always have Hope.
Look for it in little things – a flower trying to open, a beautiful sunset, a simple text from a friend, that last bag of Cheetos.
This is a Pandemic. It is also an opportunity for our scientists to develop even better ways to fight disease. It is an opportunity for the healthcare industry to truly take note of what is lacking, and develop ways to improve our practice in much more essential ways. It is a chance for all of human kind to hit the reset button and prioritize what makes life livable on a global scope.
The cliché quote by Emily Dickinson - Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words-and never stops at all – may bring you comfort.
For me, I must go with Woody Allen’s version – Hope is not that thing with feathers. That thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich…
Live is weird right now.
Embrace it. Write it down. Share your fears and your laughs. And yes, it is okay to laugh and joke. No one really wants to end up wearing feathers in a Zurich clinic....
Yes, this is serious. No one ever said life wasn’t.
Keep sight of what is special to you, while also doing what is best for the world.
Look for the things that give you Hope.
And in the process, maybe we will come out of this on the other side with a better understanding of life on this big wonderful planet.
|That brave little bud. I brought him in to shelter him from the storms promised today.|