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April 10, 2020

The Diary of a Healthcare Worker during COVID-19.

I’m a healthcare worker—I work on an inpatient pediatric psychiatric unit—and this is my story.

Thursday, March 19:

I received an early morning message from a friend in Berlin who was laid off in February. Her visa is up in October. She is faced with a time-sensitive choice: attempt to find work during bleak times, or move back to the United States and leave the place she’s called home for years.

I walk to my car and pause as I hear screaming from next door, “Is this what you want? We are stuck in here together!”

My sister sends me a photo of my nieces sitting close together in front of the computer. I see my grandma on the other side of the screen.

My best friend is a labor and delivery nurse. I send her a scavenger hunt and recommend Simon says because she is trying to keep her two-year-old busy at home.

I check the CDC website and take my daily screenshot. Today, the confirmed cases have almost doubled in the United States.

I check my local news—our mayor is begging people to stop shooting each other during this time. Oof.

A coworker reminds me of a kid we discharged a few weeks back. We silently think of him stuck at home with a mom who is not well—mentally. We think of all our kids who are trapped at home with parents who are not suitable to raise them (to put it lightly).

I tear up as I watch a video of friends quarantined in Spain. They are singing cover songs and playing the guitar. I read the caption that says:

“We knew we were happy, we just didn’t know how happy we were.”

As I am writing this, I begin to sob.

Another friend tells me her company sent her a book—they are doing a virtual book club while everything is shut down. She remarks with positivity that she has enough food and is grateful for the sunlight in her backyard, but she misses social interaction.

My grandmother texts that her power is out and their phones will soon be dead. I am painfully aware that I’m on the other side of the country—far from them.

I have a full-blown panic attack about my hair. Yes, my hair. My sister tells me, “I don’t think this is about your hair.

It takes four days (and rereading this entry) to believe her.

I take my dog to a new trail with my roommate. We sit on a fallen tree and engage in uninterrupted conversation for perhaps an hour. It feels calming—I feel connected.

I see weddings postponed or canceled on Facebook.

I see my favorite movement studio has gone online.

I feel grateful for my stable and sustainable job.

I think of all my friends who have lost their income. It’s only just begun.

I see beauty mixed in with tragedy all around me.

Monday, March 23:

It’s only been four days since I wrote that and it feels like a lifetime ago.

I shouldn’t be in a “high-risk” area because my kids aren’t sick.
I shouldn’t be in a “high-risk” area because I work with kids.
I shouldn’t be in a “high-risk” area because I don’t float around the hospital.
I shouldn’t be in a “high-risk” area because fill in the blank.

Wrong. The world itself is a high-risk area right now, and those who do not stay home are making it worse.

Friday, March 27:

This morning a kid was put in isolation. He had a sore throat and a cough, but no fever.

Before COVID-19, this never would have constituted isolation.

Saturday, March 28:

It’s my first day off since COVID-19 hit the fan. I receive a long text telling me that the kid put in isolation is a PUI (person under investigation), and we are waiting for his COVID-19 results. I know I still have to go to work, but surely they will quarantine me if he tests positive. Right?

I stop what I’m doing and sit on the couch. I glance back and forth from my phone to the wall, for hours. I don’t step outside all weekend.

Saturday evening I have my first FaceTime date—taking online dating, well…online.

I spend another hour on FaceTime critiquing my niece’s dance recital, per her request.

Sunday, March 29:

This afternoon we had a family “Social Sunday, Crushin’ Corona” Zoom call. I answered the call with my head popped out of my personal sauna. It looks like a tote bag that keeps your food warm. I briefly forgot the state of the world because of all the smiling and laughter my stunt caused.

Monday, March 30:

This morning a colleague, someone I spend all 40 hours of my work week with, calls out with a low-grade fever and body aches.

In the afternoon, the nurse manager sends me a message asking who from my staff was working on March 17.

At night I get the following email:

“If you worked on (this unit) on (this date) you potentially were exposed to a colleague who recently tested positive for COVID-19. You are still supposed to report to work if asymptomatic. Please put on a mask when coming to work and monitor your symptoms until 4/1.”

This is when I learn that I only stay home if I’m symptomatic.
This is when I learn that exposure doesn’t constitute quarantine.
This is when I learn that this is the first of many forms I’ll be filling out over the next few months.
This is when I learn we are at war.

Please, stay home because we can’t.

Please, keep searching for joy amongst this chaos.

Please, keep living as best you can.

Please, be aware of what’s happening around you, but not too engrossed that you forget to laugh.

Please, keep dancing, doing push-ups, singing, and whatever else you’re doing on social media—it reminds us of our humanity, our connection, and our community.

And please, check in on your healthcare workers. I’m so grateful for my tribe who drops stuff off at my door while I smile at them from my window.

For me, it’s still the calm before the storm. For others, they’re already at war.

~

Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon
How to Enjoy Life Amidst the Coronavirus Fear: Your Go-To Guide from Books to Podcasts & Wellness Practices.
What the Coronavirus is Teaching Me: 5 Lessons from Uncertain Times.
The Artist’s Stay-at-Home & Stay Sane Guide.
10 Simple Ways to Boost your Immunity without Leaving the House.

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