Reality of a Global Pandemic

Sometimes in the midst of duties, the noise of all types of media, and the checking out because it is all overwhelming I do not know if my brain has really processed we are actually, TRULY, really in the middle of a global pandemic.

I spend my weekdays using my training to collect history of symptoms and background medical history, assess current status, formulate differential diagnoses and treatment plans. I speak to persons with a wide array of medical issues needing attention and yes a majority are presenting with COVID type symptoms. So you would think with this daily exposure it would really sink in, but I have not really processed it.

What does this mean? What does it look like? It is surreal because these are the things you read about, not the things you actually experience. Yet, here we are.

I think I have been in survival mode for much of it. When it comes to any crisis I am the one who makes sure things are taken care of. I am focused on making sure my family, friends, and patients are getting everything they need that is in my power to provide. Whether it is actual goods, information, education, prescriptions, or encouragement I aim to assess the problem, formulate a plan, and set the plan into action. Thus it is no wonder how I have not been able to really process much since this virus hit home. My day to day is busy, the days and weeks are almost blurred. The reality of the situation has definitely not set in.

Pandemic. Global pandemic. We have an unseen culprit that we are working hard to avoid contracting because the reality is until you have it you have no idea what impact the virus will have on your own individual health. Immune system status is the greatest determinant and many of us are walking around inflamed and unaware of our condition. Some see this virus as little to worry about and others who have witnessed the impact or know well the likely implications fight hard to mitigate the spread.

So here in our global pandemic in the US what is our reality? We have restricted movement. Some resources are in short supply, yet we have overabundance of opinions which are fed by the 24 hour echo chambers on television. There are no discernible facts when you turn to media of any kind. So you read through, gather bits of information, and form your own idea. Mind you it will always have your perspective bias, myself included.

It’s funny when this thing started the initial disbelief by some was really an issue (election year…ugh). Before we could arrive at solidarity about staying home and protecting the vulnerable and flattening the curve understanding was necessary and rightfully so. We had to explain how infectious disease has an exponential spread. The reality that one person could infect so many was hard to conceive especially if this is not the paradigm in which you are accustomed. We had ti accept the fact this is a NOVEL meaning new virus for which we have no immunity and that without intention of harming anyone just daily carrying on with our lives could spread this virus and harm others.

But fighting the disbelief that this was just a media hoax was the most exhausting. Trust me I and many of my worn down, isolated from their families and some even stricken with the virus colleagues wish it were only a hoax.

We had to fight that and all the flu comparisons. Again NEW virus, no antibodies, and no Tamiflu type meds. Tamiflu mitigates symptoms for most of our flu cases in US helping curve mortality and complications. We don’t have that or a vaccine for this virus yet. For the medical community it felt like we were having to stand on our heads and do all sorts of tricks to get our infant to open their mouths and take a bite of the food that would nourish them. It was exhausting.

Sure I could have ignored it and simply worked seeing each sick person that came across my screen and take my own precautions with my family, but part of what I do is health promotion and disease prevention. That is what I love most and why I became a nurse practitioner. I didn’t do it to treat disease. I did it to fight it, prevent it or its complications. I spent too many days as a bedside hospital nurse holding hands of dying patients , responding to codes in ICU and ER beds and being on the back end. I wanted to find someway to reach them before they ended up there. It is why I chose Family Practice.

Anyhow… reality began to sink in after enough people realized this was real and that people were going on ventilators and some dying. We had solidarity and we stayed home. Hard decisions had to be made by local leaders. They had the health of whole communities to consider. We personally had to decide to comply or put others and ourselves at risk. Grocery stores worked harder and became well versed in infection control practices. Trucks kept driving to keep us fed and supplied with necessary goods. Virtual became our reality as school and work shifted to online distance working and learning. Many workers still had to head out taking precautions and mitigating risks. We realized we are in this together and just how much my action impacts your infant, grandmother or immunosuppressed Aunt.

Time passed. We grew weary. The talking heads kept talking keeping us at odds because the reality is this. They have very little information and a whole lot of speculation. It takes a lot of speculation and playing on our emotions and passions to keep them in a job of 24 hour news when there is not enough of what they report to span 24 hours. Thus if you are irritated with me and I am irritated with you and we tune in and hear our ideas echoed..we keep listening and they keep working.

We stuck in our homes most of us with food , internet, smart phones, streaming tv, books, video games and the like grew weary because despite all of that abundant fruit there is that one we can’t have for now…..so little by little we changed our minds.

Oh it didn’t help that in a fluid situation we were getting conflicting reports. What do we believe? What is the answer? Because some people weren’t bold enough to say “we frankly don’t know yet but we are working tirelessly on finding out.” Because someone wasn’t bold enough to warn “here is what we know or can scientifically guess but we need time to figure it out and we have short supply and until we get replenished with supplies and gain information, so we literally need you to sit tight and be patient.” The life you save may be your own (not good enough) then your loved one that you value the most.

So we are trying to watch trends, make scientific calculations and test the waters of returning to life. It is all about timeliness and balance. It is not an easy tightrope all while lookers on heckle from both sides.

Meanwhile in the labs, hospitals, exam rooms both actual and virtual we are assessing symptoms, formulating differential diagnoses and developing treatment plans. We have to contend with the sick and some dying while trying to stay well. We are working through false negatives, asymptomatic spreads and still very fluid conditions as we use what data we have to practice the art of medicine we have developed. All the while at the end of the day we hope and pray we stay well to keep serving that our families stay well and supplied with basic needs.

None of us wants collapsed economies (well unless you are truly vile and politically motivated but I have to trust in goodness of mankind outweighs evil and know if that exists it is minute) None of us wants to be immobilized. We don’t want to sacrifice rites of passage for major milestones. But we didn’t want this virus. It was thrust upon us.

How we define ourselves in this generation and this time is how we deal with it AND how we deal with one another as we fight to overcome it. We can spend our time and energy arguing and listening to our echo chambers and refusing to see the other side. OR we can be different. We can rise up. We can say yes normally this is what graduation looked like but let’s take what we have and make the best of it. Let’s find a new way to be human and work around it. Let’s turn off the TV and go outside. Let us who can help bring supplies to the vulnerable. Let us send messages of encouragement and connect with lonely persons and one another.

We didn’t want this virus. It was thrust upon us….How we define ourselves is how we deal with it AND how we deal with one another as we fight to overcome it.

How awesome would it be for the Graduating Seniors of 2020 to say: we are the class of the global pandemic and it took away our normal celebration but here is what we did instead. We celebrated our milestone by helping others, reaching out and instead of a spotlight on my accomplishment I took my skills and talents from my education and shined a light on someone else. We have resolve as humans. Our Maker installed it. We can do it. Let us RISE up!

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