Worry is what you do…
(If you want to hear me read this 4-minute piece you can listen here: https://inside-stories.simplecast.com/episodes/inside-stories-covid-19-stories-2 I’m at about 2:38.)
My daughter called yesterday. “Mom, They’re running out of gloves and masks. She’s 23 and still in orientation as a brand new ICU nurse. We have that guy in a coma, he’s so young. Only thirty-five and he has a 50-50 chance of living. I’m worried, mom, and she cried into the phone. What if they run out of supplies?
When I was a new nurse in 1986, I remember hearing about a disease affecting, we thought, only gay men, and it was killing them. I worked at the VA hospital, and I was pretty sure we wouldn’t see any homosexuals. I was 24 and wanted to be a good nurse more than anything, even though I knew absolutely nothing.
It was a typical day, we were getting a new admission, he was being put into our one private room. He needed a new IV, and I was handed a pair of vinyl gloves. I was eager to prove myself. The guy looked miserable. It was a hot, muggy Wisconsin summer day, and The VA didn’t have to air-condition, and I was sweating, and so was he.
The vinyl gloves I wore were loose and sticky on my hands as I tried to find a good vein. I didn’t like wearing gloves during procedures. They weren’t required if you can believe it, and I often went commando. So, I slipped them off.
I remember feeling the pop of the vein, watching the blood rush into the tubing. I got blood on my unprotected fingers. “Got it,” I said, and the man sighed with relief. “Thank you. That didn’t hurt this time.”
I felt relief and pride. Not the fear I should have felt. Not the emergent rush to wash the blood off my hands.
Hospital mandates changed quickly as we learned more about the bloodborne contagion. We were required to wear gloves during all procedures, the leaky vinyl ones, that we started with were traded out for latex ones. I heard factories had to be built quickly due to high demand. I soon understood the viral fear and worry of waiting in line to be tested for HIV as I had been exposed more than once in those early days.
I called my mom and she talked to me about when she was a new nurse in the height of the polio epidemic. How they knew nothing. I asked how did she get through it? How did she manage her fear? She said her mother told her about the Spanish flu and said, Worry is what you do when nothing can be done. It’s a waste of time.
On my phone with my daughter, I listened to her cry, I felt anxious and helpless, but I knew a few things, this time around. Sweetie, I said, shut off the news, follow the hospital procedure. Be a little afraid. Take care of yourself first so you can take care of your patients and remember, try not to worry. Worry is what you do when nothing can be done.
And it’s a waste of time.
If you want to hear me read this 4-minute piece you can listen here: https://inside-stories.simplecast.com/episodes/inside-stories-covid-19-stories-2 I’m at about 2:38.
Photo credit. christian-widell-qWqj7_h0mxU-unsplash