The question has officially been asked of healthcare providers: do you want to be included in the first round of vaccinations? At one time, I thought this day would never come. I’m actually surprised that the therapy staff were included in the first go-round, but pleased. That being said, I will get the vaccine eventually, but am holding off in the first round. Since I’m pretty sure I had it in August, I’m hoping that I have some immunity for a bit longer. The doses should go to the true front line heroes who are most vulnerable.
My experience in August was terrible, and I only had mild symptoms, and was only sick for 2 weeks. But the raging headache, the incessant watering, burning eyes, the severe fatigue, the altered sense of taste, the fever, the chest discomfort… it was awful. I also felt stigmatized and ashamed, like I had an STD or something. If I contracted the virus, I must have done something wrong, right? I tested negative twice, but my doctor told me I needed to quarantine as if I tested positive since I had all the symptoms.
In addition to my own experience, I have had the honor of helping several patients recover from this horrible virus in rehab. Post-Covid patients that come to rehab have most likely been intubated at some point in their battle with the illness, and typically suffer from ICU induced myopathy. They are weak, fatigue easily, and might have a bit of anxiety from all of their time in isolation. Some even have trouble swallowing from their prolonged time being intubated. Every single one I’ve worked with has said the same thing: “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”
With all of the times I’ve been exposed to active COVID cases in the hospital, the PPE has worked. However, I’m more likely to work with a patient who has potentially been exposed, which requires the same gear. This is a plastic gown, and N95 mask, goggles, and face shield. It makes hour and a half treatment sessions in a room absolutely sweltering for my peri-menopausal body. I’ve learned to ask the patient if they need anything before I gown up. I take the opportunity to make sure the time I spend with them is as fun and pleasant as possible, because my time with them may be the most significant human interaction they will have all day. They likely need a friend as much as they need the exercise and mobility training I give them. I look at it as a part of my job to be their sunshine.
One of my patients in isolation was having a particularly rough day last week. It had been storming much of the day, and I kept watch on the changing sky during our session. I saw the lighting was just right for a rainbow, and I found it! I had to make him walk to the window to see it, but he was elated! I convinced him it was an omen that his luck was about to change. He was taken off of isolation soon after our session.
I am pleased that in my region, folks are finally mostly compliant with the mask mandate. When Governor Northam first announced the mandate, I was already wearing a mask in public. But I would see maybe 50% of people actually wearing them when I was running errands, especially in conservative Hanover County. But now, for the most part, people are wearing them.
My family has been lucky thus far. I know co-workers who have gotten sick. I have friends who have contracted the virus and have experienced complications. In the nursing home where I used to work, they lost many long-time residents at the beginning of the pandemic, which was heartbreaking. But my family has been safe.
Can you believe that we’ve been in this fight for 9 months? So much could have been, and still should be handled better. Our country failed Epidemiolgy 101. We surpassed 200,000 daily positive cases one day last week! So, while it’s great that the vaccines will soon start to be distributed, we may not have the capacity to vaccinate everyone for another year. It’s far from over.
I believe one positive effect from the pandemic is the reduced stigma surrounding mental health care. As the world suffers this collective trauma together, I think we have become more accepting of the phenomenon of the effects of isolation and fear of becoming ill in causing depression and anxiety, and we’re more willing to discuss it. Finding a provider to assist with these struggles right now can prove challenging. But at least if we talk to each other about these prevalent issues, perhaps we can even more fully normalize these feelings, and they become less of a burden to carry.
I watched last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, where they have incorporated the pandemic into their storyline. Of course, there’s some grumbling from fans about not getting a break from daily Covid world. But I think the writers are actually doing a community service. I’m already weary of being a healthcare provider in Covid times, and I’m not a frontline fighter. I catch patients after they have passed the danger of dying from the virus. But watching this episode, they articulated so well how most of us feel who are working in the hospital, helping the nation survive this battle. Maybe it will convince others to take the virus more seriously and develop more empathy toward those on the front lines. It’s worth watching.
Looking back over my blog posts as this pandemic developed, we have many more answers to how to battle this virus and, it seems, we have the prevention on the way. It’s still exhausting from all perspectives: wearing masks, fewer social interactions, changes at work, limited visits with loved ones outside your “quarantine cluster,” and virtual schooling, to name a few. This feels like we’re running an ultramarathon at this point. For a while, we were lost in the woods and didn’t know which mark on the trail would lead us in the right direction. We even rolled an ankle and ran out of food and water and ended up waist deep in a creek. But the finish line has been discovered. Now we just need to stay vigilant and run a bit farther to reach it. We can do this!
Do you plan to get vaccinated? How has Covid affected your life? I’d love to hear about your feelings and experiences. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.