I get up pretty early, even on the weekends. It’s automatic even if I try to sleep-in, the best I can do is 7:30. I like the time in the morning before the sun rises, before my family stumbles out of bed and begins their demands, “can I have a pop tart?”
Sometimes, I waste the time by staring at Facebook, usually with a hot cup of tea in hand. Sometimes I read articles and try to wrap my head around the absolute lack of leadership that has led us to almost 400,000 COVID deaths in the US. I scoff at the voices that raise up and say it’s not real. I know they just can’t face the truth. Facing the truth about COVID would mean facing the truth about other things like the fact that the president is a con artist and then their whole worlds would fall apart. Instead they wrap themselves up in the warm snuggly blanket of conspiracy theories that continue to guard them against the cold hard facts of reality.
We all do that to some degree. I do it. I call it survival.
We lost one of our coworkers this week. Sunday night. I worked that day in the Urgent Care that our clinic has on the weekend. I drove by the hospital where I knew she was laying and tears welled up in my eyes. I said a prayer to God. She had been in that building for close to a month, on a ventilator, her family informed that her time on this earth was growing thin, decisions would have to be made. No one wants to make those decisions about the people they love. I feel like we have made a contract with God somewhere in this fine mess that those are His decisions to make, not ours. He should take that out of our hands, but alas, it does not always work out that way. Greater plan, I guess.
My prayer was this, “God please don’t let her suffer. Keep her or take her, but please end her suffering.”
That night she passed.
I found out the next morning. I work in a big office with lots of providers and nurses. We all felt utter shock. Numb. I wanted to just have a day to myself, but there were patients to see, messages to answer. We were still in a pandemic and my job that day was to work in the respiratory clinic seeing all of the potential COVID infected patients. I would not be able to ignore COVID that day and what it had taken away. I would have to stuff my feelings down for a while, ignore the facts and do my work as usual.
The irony is that she contracted COVID just mere days from getting the first COVID vaccine. The week of her death, I had received my second shot. She was so close. As I sit here, it is impossible for me to wrap my head around the utter waste of life over the past year. This virus is nothing like the Flu. All those people that would post bullshit stats about the flu and COVID in those early days saying how they were equally harmful, I just want to throat punch them. You idiots. You thought you knew something and you had no fucking idea.
Looking back over my career (spanning close to 17 years if you count residency), I can think of one patient that I have lost to Flu. I can think of at least 3 that I’ve lost in the past month to COVID.
I’ve stuffed my feelings down pretty well. It’s one of the perks of my job, if you want to call it a perk. It may be a liability, at least to the human part of me. I’m really good at keeping up my emotional guard. How much terror, sadness, loss, angst, sorrow, grief, distress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, horror, despair can one person really process?? Turns out a lot. Especially this year. Turns out I can absorb a lot, but for how much longer? Hopefully, not much. The vaccines are here. The rollout has been less than stellar, but they are here and people are getting them. There is a glimmer of hope. Lives will be saved and I have to look at that. I turn my eyes to the hope and not the despair, it’s the only way through.