My phone rang in my pocket as I was just sitting down to chart.
“ER, this is Kalissa…”
“Hey, your patient in room 10 came back positive for COVID.”
“Okey dokey. Thanks for letting me know.”
I hung up the phone and stared at it for a second, pondering how casually those words are thrown around these days. People laugh and say “I got the VID” and joke about their 5 day vacation when they catch the latest variant.
I’ve had a haunting nostalgia the past few weeks. It takes me back to the first time I got that phone call and the fear it struck in me back in March of 2020. I remember when the very first suspected COVID patient checked in. He had been on a cruise ship. Everyone else on the cruise ship had it. I had to test him.
Where do we put him? Where can he sit? What did he touch? Where did he breathe? Do we have the right swab? Do we even have a machine to run it? Am I going to get it? Am I going to take it home to my family? Do I need to change out of my scrubs before I see the next patient? Am I sure this N95 fits? Is it even enough to protect me? Do fabric masks make things worse?
So much chaos ensued in those first 6 weeks. It shook me to my core watching the doctors in Italy convert their waiting rooms to ICUs. It was literally killing off their staff one by one. It scared me. I even wrote a blog post about the sheer panic I felt knowing our healthcare system could not handle what COVID would surely bring.
I got so much crap for that blog post about how scared I was. I even had repercussions at my job. Many people told me I shouldn’t even be working if I was that scared of the virus. My mental fitness was questioned. What if I was the reason my mom died? What if I was the reason our babysitter’s grandpa was exposed to the virus? What about my community? What about my neighbors?
I took that fear and turned it into action. I became a part of the solution. I quit my job (actually, two jobs) and took a job with a commute so I could learn how to help these people. I left my comfortable ER job “home” and I started working in a COVID ICU. If these patients were going to come, I needed the skills. I knew I needed to step up in this moment. “You were made for such a time as this” I wrote on my notebook where I took report on COVID patients shift after shift.
I want to reach back in time and hug that Kalissa. I would tell her that it’s okay to be scared. Because it was scary. It was an UNPRESEDENTED time in history. That word unprecedented has been used so many times since 2020 it’s almost lost its meaning. But that’s really what it was. We had NO IDEA what we were doing. We still don’t really even know what hit us and if we made the right calls.
Was the vaccine safe long term? We still don’t know. We could only possibly have 2 years of data.
How much of a difference did it make?
Could we have safely given patient’s nebulizer treatments? Maybe.
Was all of that PPE really necessary? We aren’t using it now.
But I do know this. I made the right call. I took fear and panic and uncertainty and put it to good use. I will never regret leaving everything I had known and taking a leap of faith. I would say I followed my gut but even my gut was telling me to run the other way. I learned to trust ME. I learned I can do hard things. I stood up when others hid behind their keyboards and poked fun at those who took the pandemic “too seriously.”
So if the pandemic taught me anything, it brought me conviction in my beliefs and my values and my gut. Out of all the terrible things the pandemic has brought this world, I can be grateful for that.
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Every single thought you had then was valid. The thought that any supervisor or peer had anything to say but be supportive makes my blood boil (RN and Leader for decades).
Thank you for stepping up !!! I am grateful for you and every other Healthcare Professional that continues to serve communities across this country.
Hugs from the NW!
I think more people should have taken it so seriously!! I never went anywhere without a mask. I still use them. They are saying they don’t work but that’s ok, it makes me feel better. I have not had Covid and I hope it stays that way. I liked your post today. Hugs,
I am glad you did something positive with your fear…hard to do! The biggest thing I learned from it (not being in the medical field, retired and just stayed home) was that I can’t trust the WHO, the NIH or the government not to lie when it suits their purposes and to rely on my own intelligence and gut to do what is right for me in any circumstance. Well done, coming through that valley and climbing higher on the mountain!!
Excellent article! You’re right, we DID NOT know how this covid-thing would play out. Good decision on your part to take ACTION instead of re-acting to it. Good job!
Thank you for stepping up and taking care of Covid patients during the pandemic. I applaud you for staying in the nursing profession during this crazy time. As someone who lost a dear friend (age 52) to Covid, I have no way to thank those who took care of her at her most vulnerable time, so thank you.
Thank you so much for your worry and fear… I saw someone today who was sitting on his front porch, looking awful and he told us to stay away as he has covid and has been really sick. When we asked about his wife, he said she was in bed, sicker than him with covid. Another fellow showed up at the tennis courts and we hadn’t seen him for a month… two bouts of covid. I really hope that having vaccinations helps us to be less affected by covid when we are exposed and if we get it… but, really, prevention seems difficult and we have to trust our health professionals. I don’t think that we are overly cautious and am sure the same questions arose way back in history about polio, TB, etc. I remember when measles was easy caught and spread around and who knew it was so dangerous and now, it is gone because of vaccinations. You were right to be concerned about the health of the general population as well as your family… who knew? And who knows now? To me, it is like putting on your seat belt… we buckle our kids in properly just in case. We worry and we care. And then we do everything, every day, to keep ourselves, family and friend safe from infections, food poisoning and car accidents, bike accidents etc. We do the best we can do and when we learn more, we will do some things differently and better, improved ways…. but in the meantime, we have to trust the medical staff, those that manufacture car seats and bike/sports helmets, as well as anything else for our safety, and hope that all that we do is the best we can do.
Kudos to you, Kalissa!!! I understand how you felt about COVID when it reared its ugly head. I”m a retired RN in MO who wasn’t working during the pandemic.I would have had the same questions and fears that you had. You did the best thing for yourself that you could. I applaud what you did. You go, girl!!!
As a retired RN, your story resonated with me. Because regardless of your fears or beliefs about the virus, there is still a patient in that bed who is sick and needs someone to care for, and care about them. And you’re right…you were made for such a time! Thank you for being there and for writing this.
When people are tested that is when they grow or run away. You ran in the right direction and you grew. Proud of you