If you have been following this blog since the beginning, you know that I have had my share of rough patches. Through therapy, I was able to learn things about my life, myself, my situation, and those around me. I was able to make difficult, but positive changes that brought me to a place where I was happier than I had ever been. My point is this: I have been through bad times before. None of them could prepare me for the past 7 days.
My last real blog was 8 days ago. In that blog, I talked about how the coronavirus/Covid-19 became more of a reality for me. Well, that was 8 days ago. That reality recently became more of a night mare. I won’t be going into a lot of detail, as a matter of fact, I am only going to say enough to make my point and explain the entire reason for this blog.
Thoughts Before I Proceed
Search the Internet, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever news source you choose, and you are going to see a lot of information on Covid-19. Some articles are based on facts. Some are written to make you feel afraid. Some are loaded with misinformation. Some are written with political bias. Some are full of conspiracy theories and blaming whoever they see fit.
Don’t comment with your theories. Don’t comment with your blaming of political parties. If you are not working for the World Health Organization, the CDC, a laboratory, or in a hospital setting – you truly have no idea what is going on. You are coming to conclusions based on what you read and what you hear.
For those of you who think this is not serious – I can tell you, it is. For those of you who choose to ignore the orders to wash you hands, social distancing, and staying home – please rethink your decision. This is deadly. It is nothing to fool around with. Staying home can help stop the spread of this damn thing.
I had been out directing traffic the week before, but Sunday night I was given a new assignment at the hospital. There were approximately 3-4 entrances that were open. I happened to be stationed at the skywalk entrance. This entrance was basically staff coming in from the parking garage or leaving. My job was basically to make sure they were foaming in and out with hand sanitizer. All in all, not a hard job.
Around 3am, a frazzled nurse was leaving for the day. He told me that he was working on the Covid Floor. He was honest with me. “It’s terrible. The sounds of a dry cough fill the unit. Things progress fast. One minute they are on oxygen and doing fine, and then we have to intubate them.” That explained the announcements that I would hear over the hospital PA system asking for respiratory to go to specific rooms. He told me that there were many times he felt helpless.
At the time clock that morning there were more stories from people who were directly working with Covid-19 patients. They replayed in my mind over and over on my way home. I began to feel anxiety. Sure, I foamed all night long. I wore a mask (not the N95 masks that they need to wear when in direct contact with Covid patients), and gloves throughout my entire shift. However, I took my shoes off and left them on the porch when I got home. I stripped out of my scrubs and everything I wore at work and immediately threw them in the wash. I then jumped into the shower and scrubbed under hot water. Only then, do I even think about seeing my wife and daughter! This has become my new routine.
My job remained basically the same Monday, except I moved to the front entrance. There was a bit more patient interaction here. Expecting mothers could arrive at any time and needed to go to Labor and Delivery. Some patients arrive for specific surgeries or infusion therapy. Our job is to ask them if they are sick, have a fever, or been exposed to Covid-19. They naturally say no to all questions. That’s when the words of Hugh Laurie’s character Dr. House come into my mind – “Everybody lies.”
We also have to screen visitors. There is a ban on almost all visitors. An expecting mother can have their support person and mid-wife there with them. Patients in the ICU have to be cleared to come up. In end of life situations, patients can have a specific number of visitors to say goodbye. There is an entire list of rules that need to be followed based on the circumstance.
I won’t go into detail, but on this particular night there was an instance where a patient passed away. His father was not in the room with him when it happened. I watched this man break down at the news while he was on the phone in front of me. It was awful. I could not get passed this. I felt so bad for this man. This is the first of a few similar instances that I would witness in the remaining days I worked.
Tuesday and Wednesday
I was again at the front entrance. With each minute that passed I wish I could just become numb to the things I am witnessing and hearing. So many sad stories. People dying alone. People calling loved ones on iPads/iPhones to say goodbye. Doctors or nurses expressing how helpless they feel. Co-workers reading headlines and stories about the virus, the death tolls, and everything else that is readily available through the internet.
A Breaking Point
I came home and told Sam about the dad who lost his son. I have been trying very hard to NOT share the things I am seeing with her. It is bad enough that we both fear me bringing it home to Ella. The story about the dad was out of my mouth before I even realized it. I cried about it on the way home. It obviously bothered me.
From that point on, I have sheltered Sam from hearing it. I don’t want her to worry any more than she has to. When I found out that I would be in the hospital, she cried with me on the couch. The list of “what ifs” began. We both had plenty of them.
When I came home Thursday morning, Sam asked if I was ok. I told her I was, but, that was a lie. Technically, I think I thought I was ok, so maybe it wasn’t a lie. I would normally pick up my boys for the weekend on Thursday. Sam reminded me that I needed to text my ex to see if she was comfortable with them being with me. As I was texting, I received at text from her boyfriend asking about the weekend. I explained what I was doing at the hospital and asked if they were comfortable with me having the boys. We decided that it was best for them to stay there.
This was probably the breaking point for me.
Since last week, my sleep has been awful. My dreams have been full of Covid-19 scenarios and possibilities. I am waking up a lot and then cannot fall asleep. My mind just won’t shut off. It is awful.
Thursday night I did a video chat with my sons. Talk about difficult. They both really don’t understand why they can’t be with me. I explained that I may or may not be talking with people who have the virus and I want them to be safe. My oldest son and I had a really deep conversation about the stuff he is dealing with (cancellation of so much of his senior year, etc). It was hard not being able to hug him.
That night, while fighting sleep, I began to think about this damn virus. I actually thought about writing letters to the boys, Ella, and Sam…just in case something happens. I thought about what I would need to say to each of them. That’s how much this preoccupied my mind!
Friday morning Sam could tell that something was not right. She told me that she knew something was wrong since I told her about the incident that happened earlier in the week. She suggested I call my therapist to see if she had an opening. My therapist called me and I was able to talk.
I spent an hour in our room on the phone sharing the events of the week. I truly had no idea how much all of this affected me. The minute I started to tell the story of that dad, I lost it and pretty much cried through the entire session. I had no idea where all this came from. I told her how every time I coughed, I wondered if I had it. It was consuming me. Once I finished spilling my guts and the events of the week, my therapist said that this was not uncommon in this situation.
She told me that I was experiencing Acute Stress Disorder. It is similar to PTSD, but it is very different. It is brought on by a traumatic experience and it can show up immediately after the event. Usually, it will go away in about 4 weeks.
She helped me to think through a lot of what was going on. She reminded me of my issues with things that I can’t control. She also told me how important it was to occupy myself with things that made me happy. She told me to be sure to do the things that I found joy in. She told me to play my golf video game – or go out in the backyard and hit golf balls. She mentioned meditation and prayer – both of which I have increased.
I watched some church messages from pastor friends of mine that spoke of fear, comfort, and things that can be applied to what is going on. Those messages really hit home. My spiritual needs were lacking, mainly because of me. This has been a real wake up call for me. I plan on spending much more time listening to messages and reading my bible. I plan on spending time focusing on things that I can control and that can help me and my family.
I have been home with the family all weekend. It has been nice to just spend time together. We watched TV together, made meals together, and just enjoyed each other. Tomorrow, I return to work. It will be a challenge. Every day I walk in, I am at risk. I will continue to do what I can to be safe. I must be sure to leave the stuff I see and hear at work. I MUST come home and be a husband and dad. That is what is important.
I pray that I can do this. I wouldn’t mind if you prayed for me, too.