The Soulful Artist

Life. Art. Transcendence.

It’s been an interesting first quarter of this new decade. 2020 at one time or another seemed like a very FAR away time. A year that the infamous cartoon “The Jetsons” were just something to ponder about, wondering if there really would be robots and flying cars and whatever else it’s creator’s minds could conjure up. Except 2020 is here and now and there is still no flying cars, but there are self-driving cars, and there are robots programmed to do the work of humans. It’s pretty incredible times for the world we live in.

Most notably is that at this very moment in time – even as I sit here typing out this L O N G blog post on my phone – is that we – meaning The Entire World – is in the middle of a pandemic. Yep. The SARS2 Corona Virus, or COVID-19. Unbelievable.

My opinion, my measly two cents … I feel like it’s WW3. Biological warfare. I feel like it was an intentional unleashing of an unseen beast that has taken over and has illicit mass panic and hysteria in all parts of the world. Several thousands of people have been affected and have died from this human engineered virus. For what though? For world domination? For the control of the globe’s finances? What for? And, more importantly, WHY?

There is so much speculation about who released this beast. So much speculation about the lies told in an effort to cover up the truth. I don’t believe that we will ever truly know, so questioning “Why?” is pointless. Right now we’re in a mass lockdown. Self-Quarantine. “Shelter-In-Place” is what we have been asked/forced to do in an effort to protect those who may easily be susceptible to getting the virus, and to keep the virus from spreading. We are in a fight to protect each other. We are being asked to keep a “social distance” of 6 feet apart, and to wear a mask to cover our nose and mouths. Businesses have been forced to close. Travel is at this point, pretty non-existent – minimal flights, travel to overseas is discouraged, and buses are a no-go. Only those who are considered “essential” (hospital/healthcare workers, EMS, police, Grocery workers for example) are allowed to be out to go to work and serve the public. Others are able to leave their homes only for short periods of time and only to do things such as grocery shop, or go to the doctor if medically necessary. Group gatherings are highly discouraged. Restaurants are closed for dine-in services, only open for take out, and some have started delivery services. Gyms are closed. Most offices are closed. ALL schools are definitely closed, with classes being held in online forums. There will be no graduation ceremonies for the graduating class of 2020. Gone is the freedom to just leave your house and go to the mall, or to go workout with your friends at the gym. Beaches closed. There are even some cities fining individuals who are noted “hanging around” outside when they should be at home. People stockpiling toilet paper is the most amusing. Toilet paper, bleach, anti-bacterial wipes with rumored hopes to resell and profit from theses items at an outrageous mark-up. (That idea was shut down fast, by the way.)

I can’t even tell you how much havoc this engineered virus has wrecked. I couldn’t give you exact numbers, nor could I direct you to a reliable resource. In New York City alone, they have been the hardest hit state with thousands affected. Hospital ICUs in NYC have been inundated, shortages of nurses, doctors, hospital staff, equipment, medications, ventilators all in very short supply. The demand far outnumbering the state’s supply. We watched it happen in China, where the virus was initially unleashed. Then Italy. France. India. And so forth and so on … so much devastation.

When this started to all go down, my family and I were in the midst of traveling to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our youngest boy, Noah, who is currently attending Missouri Baptist College on a baseball scholarship. We had high hopes of watching him play at least 2 games over spring break, but as fate would have it, school was closed and the entire baseball season was cancelled right before we got there. Regardless, we made the best of our visit, getting Noah settled, finding him a reliable car, and just visiting with him. On day 3 of our trip, the hotel where we were staying was ordered to close by the governor of Missouri. Yikes! Thankfully, Noah’s roommates had pretty much vacated their apartment and we were able to stay there for the remainder of our trip.

Empty flight home.

Immediately upon returning, we heeded the shelter-in-place order, only leaving the house to stock our pantry and refrigerator that we had purposely emptied prior to us leaving for Missouri. I was fortunate to still have a week off of work, and debated on whether or not to give up that vacation. The decision was made for me when there were complaints and reports of hospital workers not being having adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) provided to them and were actually being discouraged from using PPE. No way was I subjecting myself. Seriously, you want me to provide good patient care, but you don’t want to keep me or my coworkers safe?!? Yah, no. Nope. No way.

A week later on what was to be my first night back to work, I had a slight anxiety attack. I didn’t know what to expect. Would there be enough equipment? Would there be enough PPE? How many patients are afraid and coming in because of their symptoms? I didn’t want to be there. My body tense, my mind racing. Had I not been a nurse and known better, I would’ve thought I was having a heart attack. Luckily I knew it was just anxiety and I knew what to do. I sent a text to my son, Nathan, as he has always been my voice of reason. Matter of fact and straight to the point, he quickly asked me pertinent questions to my situation and reminded me that this is what I was born to do. He reminded me that I was a leader and that I knew what to do. He reminded me that I have done harder things than this. My anxiety subsided shortly after our conversation.

It was well rumored that my place of employment had locked down all PPE equipment. And that was exactly the case when I arrived to work. Where there was once a plethora of procedure masks, N95 masks, bleach wipes, antibacterial wipes, gowns, etc., there was now none to be seen laying around. All of it locked up and highly guarded, even tallied from shift to shift. Thankfully, my husband was able to secure me some heavy duty face shields, and N95 masks. I put together a bag of supplies for myself which included the face shields, masks, eye protection, heavy duty garbage bags for gowns should it come down to that. I was NOT going to get caught unprepared.

Work was now a different environment. The people I worked with were the same, yet the way we worked was different. The way we were interacting with our patients now appeared fear based. Patients are now greeted before they even reach the front door and asked if they were experiencing any shortness or breath (SOB), cough, fever. If any of their answered were yes, they were immediately labeled as a Person Under Investigation (PUI) and sequestered into a tent where the staff awaits them in full protective gear: gown, glove, N95 mask or PAPR, eye shield/goggles, gloves. Everything for PUIs happens outside in this sequestered area: triage, labs, COVid swab, EKG, X-ray, medications. It is then determined if they need a room. It’s really been quite the circus. But my coworkers and I follow the rules. We follow them because first and foremost we are thankful to have jobs and most of us like and enjoy what we do. We also genuinely care about others. We don’t want to get sick, we don’t want to take any thing home to our families to get them sick, nor do we want to intentionally harm others. We want people to be well. At least I know that I do. No one asked for this. No one.

Wearing PPE at work has been, not hard, just more of an adjustment. I can be found with an N95 and a procedure mask on for my entire shift. During flu season most of us wore procedure masks the entire time so it was just wearing the N95 for a prolonged period that took some getting used to. Where I once let my long hair flow freely at work on occasion, it’s now securely gathered in a tight ponytail and placed inside a surgical cap. We all have taken to wearing surgical caps. We seriously don’t want to get this virus. The gowns and face shield we usually don only when entering the rooms of PUIs or known Positive (+) CoVid19. I just pray every time I enter their rooms and I make sure that I have all my supplies otherwise it’s an ordeal to get my coworkers to help me out.

For me, I think that the most frustrating thing is having an assignment that has several PUIs or “Known Positives.” Having a one patient in isolation is difficult, but having 3 patients in isolation is even worse. Just having to don (put on) and doff (remove) PPE is an ordeal. And it must be done every time you enter and exit a room. It’s not that you put it on and wear it the entire shift. It’s only frustrating because sometimes there are coworkers who see and hear the call lights going off but don’t want to answer it because they would have to gown up, etc. I get it. I do. And there are times when’re are all busy, or when we all have isolation patients. I get frustrated when I come out of one room, only to be told, “Your patient in Room X wants something.” Aaaargh! I’ve only lost it once at work. I’m not one that publicly displays my emotions, so when I start losing it it’s for me to control my tears. My coworkers are great people. I work with an amazing group of people and I am grateful for all of them, but this has gotten to the best of us. We are all tired, stressed, worried.

It’s now towards the end of April so we’ve been at this for a good month and a half at least. It’s been trying. Many are afraid. I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid, stressed, yes, but not afraid. I’m more frustrated that we have no real end in sight, no real answers, that the media has been good about blowing it up, that there’s conspiracy theories, etc. We all want answers. We’re tired of blatant lies, half assed truths, and our leadership flailing. The economy is suffering. People are dying. So many stories are coming out of the woodwork that this isn’t going to end until a vaccine is formulated and we’re all vaccinated! I’m just over here shaking my head and wondering what happened.

Healthcare workers are being touted as being on the frontlines of this pandemic. They are being dubbed “heroes.” I don’t feel like a hero. I am only doing what I know how to do. I am a nurse, a good one, but I’m far from hero status. I feel guilty taking donations from the public for free food and for priority status when there are so many out there who have been out of work for the last couple months. Give the donations to them. It just feels … what’s the word? Uncomfortable taking all of these donations when there are so many out there struggling. I am thankful, for my job, my steady income, and my ability to serve. My job is to help others and that’s what I’m doing. Don’t get me wrong, I am TRULY grateful for the donations. Truly. I am just doing my job and am happy to serve you.

I would like to extend my gratitude for the many people who have been taking care of me during this time. My husband, Chris, first and foremost has been holding down the fort and building and amazing homestead. When I am at home, there is very little that I need to do as most of my needs are well taken care of. When I get home in the mornings, I have my robe and slippers waiting for me, a box to put my laundry in, and a warm shower ready to go. Everything, and most importantly, our daughter is well cared for.

There have been many people reaching out to me to make sure I am well protected. I have friends who have supplied me with N95 masks. Businesses such as have sent me PPE equipment. And there are countless individuals out there who have been taking the time to sew cloth masks and scrub caps for my co-workers and I. From the bottom of my heart, I am eternally grateful and very thankful.

My heart breaks for the many people affected by this pandemic. My problems are minute compared to what they are experiencing.

My heart is most broken for my youngest child, my daughter, Grace, who is cognitively delayed and who is a graduating senior this year. This has truly disrupted and upended her entire schedule and life. No school, no after school CrossFit, stuck at home with her parents. Of ALL of my children, she has been the most excited about graduating from high school and was looking forward to walking up to get her diploma. It is unfortunate that she will be missing out on this milestone, but it’s been difficult because she doesn’t fully understand the magnitude of what’s happening. She has been out of school since mid-March and it has been confirmed that school will not reopen for the remainder of the year. She loves school! To say that she misses it is an understatement. She is such a social being. She never got to say good bye to her friends or to have closure on this important chapter of her life! I’m hoping that there will be a ceremony or something to provide this for the graduating class of 2020. It seems so unfair. Unreal. Disappointing.

I pray that everyone is taking care of themselves during this period of uncertainty. This “forced” shelter-in-place is a time to reflect and really take the time to slow down and to really breathe. I see a lot of people out there worried and complaining, not heeding the instructions to stay at home. I hope that behind all that they’re enjoying their time with their family, and taking the time to rest and regenerate. Just slow down. There’s really not much we can do about it so complaining doesn’t help. Find the things that you were once “too busy” to do. Read the books you’ve been wanting to read. Paint, draw, create. Write the book that’s in your heart to write. Play with your kids. Or … do “nothing.” There’s not shame in that. Sleep in. Watch movies you haven’t had the time to watch. There are no rules except to stay home. It’s important that you know your limits though and to reach out when it becomes to much.

We’re going to get through this. We will. Only time will tell what our new “normal” will be. Until then, help each other when you can. No judgements, only kindness please.

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