I wanted to take a minute and talk about COVID. We all have our own opinions and thoughts on this and that’s okay. I just want to share with you what it’s like to be on the frontlines of this battle. I want you to know that it isn’t a joke. I know that there are many, many other diseases out there and that people die every day from things other than COVID. I know that suicide rates have spiked and that breaks my heart, but I also feel that these deaths are COVID related because of the isolation that we are all feeling.
It isn’t easy to be separated from your friends and family. We all have a need for connection. Please know that I agree that the isolation is awful and difficult, but this post isn’t about that. This post is about what it is like to be on the frontlines of the battle and the frustration that is felt when people deny that this virus is real. This is not meant to downplay the reality of social isolation and the negative effect that it has on all of us. This is simply a story about what it is like to go to work knowing that I am fighting to keep my residents safe from a virus that could so easily take their life.
I work in a facility that has been faced with the reality of having COVID positive residents. This means that for twelve plus hours a day I wear full personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes a full gown, mask, gloves, and face shield. Wearing all of this PPE means that I can’t hold the hand of a resident and comfort them with my touch. It means changing every time I enter a room, even if it’s just to say hello and offer a comforting word. It means that I wash my hands too many times a day to count. It means sweat dripping down your face and being unable to do anything about it because you can’t touch your face.
It means that in over two weeks, I have only left my house to go to work. I haven’t been able to go out to buy food for my family. I can’t run to the store to pick up the prescriptions that I need to help me get through this time. It means I don’t leave my house. Period. Because of that I am relying on the kindness of friends to help me with the day to day errands; it is friends who make this doable.
It means that when I get home from work, I can’t hug my kids (which is all I really want to do) until I have showered and changed my clothes. It means that I have worked many days in a row because there was just no one else to take the shift. It means that I see my kids for a few minutes in the morning before I leave and for an hour once I get home. It means needing to cry on the shoulder of my best friend and having to settle for a wave through the door.
It means sore feet and exhaustion. It means finding the strength within that you never knew was there. It means waking up grateful that you get to make a difference in someone’s day. But it also means feeling the burden of grief watching the residents wave through the window to their family and not understanding why they can’t come in. It means crying after a phone call explaining that a beloved mom or nanny is not doing well and knowing that there is nothing to be done but offer support. It means trying to be a light in someone’s darkness. I have had to make the phone call to families to tell them that their loved one has tested positive for the virus. I have held the hand of a resident as I explain to them that they have tested positive and that they will have to move out of their room with all of their belongings and go into the COVID unit. I have seen the fear in the eyes of my co-workers as we await the results of the latest swab. I have celebrated as tests come back negative and held back tears as we receive the news of a positive result.
I write this not for pity or praise. I am simply one person out of millions who are serving on the frontlines. I want you to understand that every time you put on your mask or choose to stay home you are helping us win this fight. To you the rules may seem silly or stupid or unfair, but to the family of the ones who are fighting the COVID battle, they are not. Whether you choose to believe it or not, COVID is a reality which impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Reach out to your friends, wear your mask, wash your hands, and let’s pray that we can overcome this virus.