Well, I guess that’s it, huh? CDC said we can go without masks (to the vaccinated), and you see businesses everywhere taking down their “masks required” signs. Disney World is taking advantage of our good numbers in the U.S., and while I’m just as excited as anybody to return to a normal, pre-covid world, I’m also having a hard time.
When mask mandates fall, plexiglass partitions are taken down, and social distancing requirements are slackened, it doesn’t just usher in the happy feelings of going back to the good ole days like I would hope. You see, it also feeds the wrong fires, and it perpetuates bad theory.
Who doesn’t know someone who thinks COVID-19 was a political ploy?! Like, I could probably count on both hands, and have to take off my shoes too, to total the Facebook friends who are certain the pandemic was an attempt at government control of its people; without them even noticing that a lot of the behavior in 2020 proved maybe a little government overreach was necessary. But that’s another topic. No wonder the Podcast I listened to earlier called social media “Satan’s cesspool.”
Point is, as the pandemic blows over, the chance of forgetting its seriousness flies away like the wind as well. It’s easier to lessen the virus when it’s not affecting anyone you know. When it’s a distant, news story from India, it’s fairly simple to blame the Democrats for going overboard to keep people safe. Heck, you could even believe COVID-19 was never really a big deal. Except… it was. To me, it was.
I am a critical care nurse, and in the year 2020 I experienced the worst year of my nursing career. I would even go so far as to say it was worse than my time in the military, in a post 9/11 world, watching scores of young men medevaced to my facility with only one limb remaining. At least the brave soldiers I saw in my stateside care lived. Not so with the Covid pandemic.
I personally saw hundreds in our facility’s care die. Not just old people, or people with multiple health problems. I especially remember the mother of three children who was younger than me. I tried to warn her she might die if she didn’t lay in a prone position. At the time, it was the thing that seemed to help those patients the most. The next day, she was intubated. A week later, she was gone. It was like that for way too many patients this past year.
I watched my coworker dress out in PPE to hug her husband goodbye before he died. I cried on the phone with more family members than my heart could take. I saw the hope go out of otherwise strong men’s eyes. Each day they fought in vain to breathe, the light in their eyes dimmed more and more. It was a fight they couldn’t win. And sadly it was a fight the nursing community couldn’t win either.
As a nurse, my job is to make people better. In my twenty years of nursing, I did a two year stint in Hospice Nursing. Y’all, I loved it. It was extremely rewarding to care for patients and families during a difficult end of life experience. I was able to prepare, support, and comfort them. All that to say, it wasn’t the morgue being too full to take any more bodies that got to me. As a nurse, I can handle patients dying. The problem with the past year was, they all died. If you came into the intensive care unit, you were only leaving in a bag! Back to the counting fingers… I can count on one hand how many patients got to leave my critical care unit alive. That’s bad odds.
Nursing care is about helping. No one wanted to die of COVID-19! They wanted to live! And when we became (like) Hospice nurses to patients and families who had not requested those services, it was debilitating to the morale. Y’all, I still have PTSD-like response from 2020. My actions, even now, as the virus statistics improve, are impacted negatively by the trauma I experienced watching patients die, over and over, every shift, day after day.
I am a woman of faith. When churches began to open back up, I didn’t take my family back. I had seen too much! It wasn’t fear winning out over my faith. It was my trauma response. But you haven’t heard the worst part. I still haven’t taken my family back to church, but it’s no longer the corona virus that whispers to me to stay at home. It’s a whole other form of PTSD. It’s the response of people that has given me a lasting trauma. With the vaccine, time, and herd immunity, I can move past COVID-19. But the careless words, hateful attitudes, and selfishness of some, fellow Christians has created a lasting trauma in my life. It’s hard for me to share in fellowship with people who laugh at a virus that made 2020 the worst year of my life as an RN. I’ve just been worshipping God at home with my husband. God, my spouse, and my fellow critical care nurses seem to be some of the few who understand why my heart was broken into pieces this past year.
I’m glad we are returning to a life without a pandemic. I’m happy to see my patients transfer out of critical care, and on their way to recovery again! I want my children to play with other kids, and I want my loving husband to go back to striking up friendships with strangers. I miss his outgoing self! I think these things are possible. I know they are! But then there are the things that I don’t think can return to before.
I can’t forget the way people spoke so nonchalantly and uncaring about the death of >550,000 American citizens, or over 3 million people worldwide! I watched friends be more concerned with having to wear a piece of paper over their face for twenty minutes of shopping than they were for the possible health outcome statistically of their neighbors over 65 years of age. Citizens worried more about their “personal rights,” as they perceived them, than they were staving off the spread of a disease that had healthcare workers going beyond the possibility of what they could do. I remember reaching a wall of what I felt I could handle as a nurse in 2020. Then we busted right through that mother, to the point I recall in tears asking a coworker, “is this real life?!”
We were drowning, and no one cared! Our patients were dying, and no one cared! And now, things are getting better, causing some folks to say COVID-19 wasn’t a big deal. And no one seems to care!! Except me, my coworkers, and the families of the 3 million dead people. We seem to care. We seem to remember the past year wasn’t just a political ploy to oust Trump, reform gun control, or God-forbid, raise gas prices.
I don’t guess I have much more in me to say right now than that. It’s exhausting and it’s heartbreaking. Just when I think my heart is healing, callous words step on the broken pieces.
My husband told me earlier, “Brie, people just don’t know. They’re ignorant.”
To which I replied, “I wish I was too. I would rather be ignorant to the reality of a pandemic than have gone through what I did as a nurse in Covid Critical Care in 2020.”
So, if you see a nurse friend with a distant, haunted look while you discuss the government’s mishandling of the pandemic, try and understand why. It was so much more than you’ll ever know to those it touched personally. I do believe politicians play circumstances like a fiddle, and I know things were and are still mishandled in regards to COVID-19, but we have to be bigger than that. We, as human beings, have to rise above politics and the noise of this world to care compassionately about one another. If anything could return to normal after a pandemic, maybe it could be that.
RON STELSE says
YOU TOOK THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY THOUGHTS. I CRIED AND THEN I DIDN’T FOR FEAR I’D CRY AGAIN. COVID WAS BAD ENOUGH BUT THE ‘UNCARING’ WAS WORSE. THX BRIE. I’M SO GLAD YOU ARE AND WERE ONE OF MANY THOUSANDS WHO ‘CARED’ FOR THE DYING. HUGS. ♥♥♥ RADIO RON ♥♥♥
linda McCormack says
i totally agree with you. I am nurse..much older than you..65 and where I live in Beith in Scotland at midnight on New Years Eve a man goes up into the church tower and rings the bells, very slowly at first and then faster. I was on my knees sobbing for all that had been lost by families, patients and even myself. I hope..never again.
I hope so too.
Lisa Pierce says
I am so sorry for all that you and the other healthcare workers have had to and still are enduring. It makes my heart ache to think of all the ignorance and selfishness of this world. Now here we are with a vaccine and people won’t even get it. That includes my family and many friends. I’m vaccinated but still unsure about going without a mask. I don’t know if I will ever feel safe again. If people weren’t compassionate and caring before the pandemic I hope this past year has changed their hearts.
God bless you Brie. May God shower you with His peace and keep you and your family safe. Praying for you always.
Thank you so much ☺️
Christina M Kincaid says
Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. I am a geriatric’s nurse. Not as complicated as critical care, but when I talked to a Resident at one of my appts, he said, “you deal with life. It’s all the same, complicated or not.” When we were fighting it the worst, at our facility, I got it. Thankful I was only out two weeks. Still having fatigue, still can’t taste or smell as well. I miss some of my favorite old people, I still hurt that that so many had to be isolated from their families for “safety” and it contributed to their decline. Still aggravated at, as your husband said, “ignorant people,” some in my own family. Yes, we in the real world of healthcare will be reeling from this for a long time. I do pray that you will find a caring church family. I am grateful for mine.
Nancy A Obrigewitsch says
You know I haven’t been in healthcare for this fight but I have a niece, sister in law and a brother in law who have been and I was a Respiratory Therapist for years. I caught Covid in the early days and my Dr refused to test me because i hadn’t traveled or been with anyone who had but I came close, very close to dying at home, alone. So the pandemic was never a joke to me. It still isn’t. People don’t get that there are still people dying. It’s not gone. I follow a group on FB, Young and Severely Affected by Covid-19, if that doesn’t wake you up to reality nothing will. The loss of young pregnant woman is absolutely terrifying and heartbreaking too. Just from following that page I knew they would announce there was a huge risk to pregnant women and then they did. Twenty times more likely to be fatal. All I can do is pray that more people than not use good judgement. After all we haven’t even gotten kids vaccinated yet.
I’m praying with you! I’m so glad you made it through your bout with Covid!
Rebecca Kellenberger says
Brie – thank you for your selfless love and endurance as a critical care nurse, giving your all to help others during this horrific pandemic. And thank you for being brave enough to speak the truth about the reality of it, despite the fallout from uninformed or willfully ignorant members of the Christian community. May God’s grace enfold you and continue to heal your heart as you move forward. It all comes down to faith, hope and love, and love is the greatest. Look to God and walk in love. Wishing you peace.
Thank you so much! I prayed this morning for God’s healing for my heart. I don’t want the enemy to steal anything from me God will need to use in the future. His love sustains me.
Brie, I’m glad you’re clearing enough of a path for yourself that you’re still able to want to try to keep evil from infecting your heart. I owe a lifetime of gratitude, that I feel I am compelled to honor, to the many nurses who have cared for way too many people I’ve loved at the end of their lives. Nurses are a blessing times ten. But this year was different for all of you. Off the chain, so totally utterly different & heart breaking.
I pray that you’ll continue to learn & grow in your faith while still in pain. That you’ll eventually come out on the other side, stronger & more confidant in your direction-living with joy in whatever He shows you as the way to praise Him by living your best life.
Sidebar…..For anyone still wondering about wearing a mask, fully vaccinated or not, I want to share something with you. Today I just about “lost it” in Dollar Tree. I have a Stage 4 cancer & although I’m in remission, there’s no cure for mine. I’m fortunate to be able to function pretty well most of the time on a protocol that trashes what’s left of my immune system as the tradeoff.
Ok, so… I requested that another customer (whose outstretched armpit was across my mouth & she was rubbing on me to grab the English muffins) kindly keep a bit of social between us at a bread display. I was told that “people like me” should stay home. (I’ve just started to venture out without a scarf or hat on my head-too darn hot here in Florida to keep up this charade any longer) She let loose with all the ammo she had in her soul & became pretty loud. I don’t “do” loud real well & I tried so so hard to keep it together. I’m almost ashamed to say that as mad as I felt toward her, that she had hurt me.
Shortly afterward,I was the checkout register with a masked gentleman cashier who, despite now having the option to go without, chose to be masked. During the idle checkout chatter he mentioned he felt hotter than usual in the store today. The customer behind me in line piped up that he wouldn’t have that to complain about if he wasn’t wearing THE STUPID MASK. Turning from one guy to the other, I thanked the clerk (profusely) for wearing his mask. I acknowledged that I know it’s a real pain & said that I truly appreciated him making the gesture. The one in back of me was still making noise but I couldn’t hear him anymore. I blocked him out, knowing that a good bit of grace had just gotten thrown at me in order for me to be leaving that store without handcuffs.
Please please, people. Be good humans. Do what doesn’t always feel good or keep you in the good graces of others who may we’ll be misguided. Be kind. Be the best you can be. Pretend you care, if that’s what it takes. Pretend you’re a nurse.
Apologies for the rant. I’m so thankful for the irrefutable courage, caring, kindness & sincerity that nurses have shown, most especially this year. I’m finding it hard to be in a world where so many people appear to be flying in such a different orbit. Hoping for us all to receive guidance & direction so we don’t mess up along the way.
No apologies necessary. I’m so sorry you had that experience in the store. My heart has been broken to pieces this past year over the behavior of fellow humans. I don’t understand why people can be so cruel. Praying for you too. God bless you, my friend.
I agree that the sense of people not caring is the hardest. This wasn’t the first multinational outbreak I’ve worked in as an RN and I had a similar experience last time with people being so very inconsiderate. It hurts. Thankfully God always cares and is there for us.
ThankfullyI didn’t have to see the worst of it, as you and some of my peers here have done. I was placed into an educator role which gave me emotional distance from the patients, and my town wasn’t hit too hard. But I still see the struggle and we talk about it a bit at work now that I’m back to frontlines. God will get us through!