Sunday, 22 March 2020

Diary of a healthcare worker during Covid-19

It's eerily quiet in the hospitals. The hallways are deserted, the emergency waiting rooms are empty, our booking list has dwindled down to almost nothing. Talking to my friends at other hospitals I hear that it's like that everywhere; empty corridors, no wait times for the lab, more and more procedures being cancelled. 
We are used to hustle and bustle, to every chair being occupied, to chattering and laughing and complaints about the long wait. We are used to running around and being busy.
The silence is unnerving. 
Because we know what it is - it's the calm before the storm. And nobody knows just how bad the storm is about to get. 

Two weeks ago I was sitting with my coworkers in the lunch room, all of us shaking our heads and laughing about the great toilet paper wars. We watched videos of hordes of people stampeding through Costco, racing each other in order to get as many mega packs of toilet paper as they could fit in their oversized trolleys. We talked about the virus in a somewhat smug way. We, as healthcare workers, were sure that the media was blowing this coronavirus thing completely out of proportion, and that everybody who washed their hands and used their common sense would be fine.

We thought that we, who had worked with infectious diseases for all of our careers, knew what we were doing. If we continued doing what we always had we would be just fine.
(Maybe we assured each other a bit too heartily that everything would be fine? Some of us caught the faintest whiff of danger approaching, but we were eager to not pay too much attention to it.)

On March 9 my husband and I went to our local pub, and when some of our friends asked me my opinion on the virus, I repeated what I believed to be true: that hand washing and sneezing in your elbow were the best ways to protect ourselves. The terms "social distancing" and "flatten the curve" were still a thing of the future. 

Then the WHO declared the coronavirus a worldwide pandemic on March 11, started to talk about cancelling vacations, quarantine and limiting social gatherings to 250 people, and now we really did pay attention.   

We have talked about nothing else since. Emails and memos flood our inboxes daily with ever-changing guidelines and new rules. We use the current unsettling quiet to prepare as much as we can.
We know that the storm is about to hit; it's no longer a matter of if, but when.

Resources will become a problem. So many people have stolen masks from the hospitals that we had to take the dispensers out of the waiting rooms and entrance areas. They will be given to patients when see the triage nurse. 

Instead of using single-use masks once (which is their intended purpose), we now have to use them for the entire shift, which means we will re-use them dozens of times. Isolation gowns will also become scarce, which means that we have to decide when to use them and when not. 

The last few days I stripped down to my underwear in front of the house, throwing my clothes straight into the washing machine and having a shower before entering the rest of the house. 
From now on we will come in our regular clothes to work and get changed into our scrubs there, taking them off again before leaving the hospital.  
We clean and disinfect all the time. My hands are raw from washing them so vigorously and so often. I stopped wearing my rings on my fingers and put my wedding band on a chain around my neck instead. 
I wake up several times a night, heart pounding. I have nightmares. I started dreaming of school again, of having an exam I didn't prepare for and panicking, which was a recurring dream during college and at the beginning of my career.  

And every time I'm on my way to work I'm queasy. What is waiting for me at the hospital? Is it starting to get bad?
Is today the day the wave will hit?


2nd entry



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14 comments

  1. I feel every part of this post. Thank you for doing your job and putting it out there that we need to flatten the curve.

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    1. Together we'll get through this. I really hope that everyone is recognizing the severity of the situation by now and does their part by staying home!

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  2. Thinking of you Miriam. I live in Ohio and our "stay at home"/lockdown goes into effect tonight. Please stay well!

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    1. You, too! Try to make the best of it by remembering how often we wish for being able to stay at home and on the couch all day - now is the time!

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  3. There are no words adequate enough Miriam to let you know how much everyone appreciates your courage and commitment as you work on the frontlines of this pandemic. You are fighting a war on behalf of not just your community, but the whole world. Tears of gratitude are streaming down my face after reading your post. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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    1. There are so many of us- together we are strong! We will get through this!! ❤๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š

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  4. Thank you for the work you do. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be on the front lines of this.

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    1. It helps so much to face this together with coworkers, many of whom feel like family. I have never felt less alone than right now, which is really empowering. We are truly all together in this.

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  5. For myself I feel very priviledged and thankful. I'm working with children, who stay at home now - but I'm thinking of THEIR situation with their families with very mixed feelings. To some of them, school and our place usually means safety... but now?
    I really want to thank you for the work you do: working in a hospital, as a doctor or assistant, in a supermarket or collecting waste... you are the heroes of daily life now!!! Stay safe, Miriam!
    Maren

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    1. Same to you, Maren! We definitely live in uncertain and scary times, but I know that we will get through it together, while 6 feet apart ;-)

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  6. I hope you and the rest of the hospital crews get applauded evenings at 19.00/ 7pm. We need to cooperate and do this together, stay inside/ clean hands often/ keep our distance to EVERYONE (which is hard, we'll feel like hugging more than ever)So here's my big, proud, loving E-hug to you, and pass freely along to your colleagues. I am proud to know you. Much love to you both!

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    1. I'm giving you a giant virtual hug right back!! Thanks for your sweet words Marijke, and yes, they're cheering us on here. It's very special. Stay safe!

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  7. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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