I was honored when asked if I would be the LT eNews guest editor. After accepting this task, I starting feeling nervous, similar to when I prepared my song for classmate introductions on the LT bus as we traveled to the opening retreat. In this case, I get to speak about something I am very familiar with, my experience with COVID-19.
As a respiratory therapist, I have cared for many critical patients throughout my career. COVID-19 presented a unique challenge to our way of life here in the hospital. The anticipation of COVID was unnerving, to say the least. I scrambled to find as many ventilators as possible to ensure that we could meet the needs of the community. Each day we received updated projections about how many people in Tallahassee and surrounding areas would be affected. The predicted volume was staggering. Then the first positive result came in from a patient and it instantly put everyone on edge. As a leader, I tried to keep my team focused but there were so many questions that I did not have the answers to. Schools and businesses started closing and the stress level increased. Many of my employees struggled to find alternatives for their children. Most importantly, as we started seeing sicker patients, the panic of contracting the virus set in. Respiratory therapists, who routinely care for patients who have the flu, tuberculosis and many other communicable diseases were terrified. COVID-19 had a disease progression within the body that we had not seen before. Our first line of treatment, aerosol treatments, were dangerous now, as it would spread particles upon exhalation. Intubating patients and placing them on ventilators became an extremely dangerous procedure, as we quite literally would come face to face with COVID particles from the airway. Everything that we did BC “Before COVID” was now being questioned.
One day I started to feel more tired than normal. I am very stubborn when it comes to my health so I did not think much of it. The next morning I woke up with a fever. I immediately notified my hospital leadership and got tested for COVID-19. I received a positive result. I quarantined in the back of my house for 12 days. Unbeknownst to my classmates, I participated in my virtual LT graduation while on quarantine. I was blessed, my symptoms faded quickly and I returned to work after my quarantine. However, the experience gave me a very different perspective.
COVID-19 has brought us a great deal of uncertainty and in some cases despair. In the hospital setting, I have watched patients pass away surrounded by hospital colleagues who stand in as family because of heightened visitor restrictions. Inversely, I have had the opportunity to see many patients improve and return home to their families. Throughout my experience with COVID-19 both at home and in the hospital, I have learned to be more emotionally expressive. We are all experiencing the absence of physical touch with friends and family, which is a natural stress reliever. I support my team by remaining optimistic and reminding them each day that we will get through this. I educate as many people as I can about the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing, and handwashing. I check on my friends, colleagues, and family members frequently to make sure they are talking through their feelings. Life may never return to our previous sense of normal but things will get better. I hope that from this pandemic we never take advantage of a hug or handshake again. We strengthen our bonds as a community so that we can all pull through this together. My LT class motto sums it up the best “Failure is not an option”.