Protector of The Preemies

For the everyday person, I think this whole Coronavirus pandemic is causing one of three responses.

1. Some of you may feel like everyone is over-reacting. It’s a valid feeling, especially when you look around and people are panicking and emptying store shelves of things that even seem a bit comical (like a year’s supply of toilet paper).

2. Others may feel the exact opposite and you may be the people stocking up on as much toilet paper as the stores will let you buy. I get it, fear of the unknown is a real thing. All of this press about the pandemic can be anxiety producing and even paralyzing at times.

3. Still, there may be others of you who find yourselves somewhere in the middle – understanding that this is a real thing and there will be side effects that will hit our communities but you also aren’t so anxious that you’re willing to panic about it all.

Regardless of where you find yourself, as someone in healthcare, can I ask a favor of you?

Can you commit to this social distancing thing for a few weeks and find a way to spend more time in your home? I know, I know, some of you think this is all silly and over-the-top. But while some of you have the option of working from home, there are many of us who can’t – especially those of us in healthcare.

I know it’s been said so many times by many people that the flu is deadlier than the Coronavirus. To be fair, there’s probably a lot of fundamental truth in that. For the vast majority of us who end up getting sick with the virus, it will affect us no worse than the common cold or even a mild flu.

But. (and please hear me out)

But, this virus will affect some people much more severely. What we believe at this time is that those who are of an older age (say 65+) are at an increased risk for experiencing the virus to a worse extent as well as those with other co-morbidities (think those who smoke, are obese, have cancer, have heart disease, etc.). But this isn’t just an “old person’s disease”. As a pediatric nurse, I know that there are several people who have medically complex and compromised children – kids who get really sick just from the common cold (Rhinovirus) or influenza.

As a NICU nurse, we lovingly call ourselves “protectors of the preemies” because we work hard to be an advocate for our patients when we’re at work. We protect their sleep and their developmental growth by monitoring the interactions, timing of cares, etc. that they receive. Our job is to protect the preemies. Now, that term is taking on a new meaning. We are being asked to be protectors of the preemies in new and unprecedented ways and we take that role seriously.

So as a protector of the preemies, I need to ask you to stay home for a few weeks – because, even though you may only get mildly sick, this virus is incredibly contagious and someone you pass it on to may not be able to handle it as well. They might be elderly, already be compromised, or have health conditions that make it more difficult for them to fight this virus like you and I can.

But.

Yes, here’s another but. Have you also stopped to consider your fellow friends, neighbors, family members, peers, etc. who work in healthcare? There are only so many trained individuals in any given community that are capable of caring for sick individuals who need treatment. We’re doing all we can to prepare for this pandemic to hit our hospitals but if our community doesn’t take social distancing seriously I fear two things will happen.

1. Our hospitals are going to get hit hard and swiftly with a massive amount of very sick individuals and we just don’t have the beds, protective equipment, ventilators, etc. to be able to treat everyone at the same time. We don’t want to end up in a position that Northern Italy is in right now, having to decide who gets treatment and who dies.

2. Once staff starts getting sick, we have to stay home for 2 weeks to isolate ourselves. If multiple staff members get sick at the same time (even just mildly) we’ll see a shortage in staff available to go to work and care for those who need help.

The combo of those two scenarios will be catastrophic at best.

So do me a favor. Can you please just stay home and be inconvenienced for a little while so that I have a fighting chance at staying healthy so I can pick up the extra shifts that my hospital is requiring? Can you help me help others?

We all play a role. For some of us it’s as simple as staying home. Inconvenient and annoying? Absolutely. But for others we HAVE to work. We have to face this beast head on. Some of us have to care for the ill, others have to go to work to restock shelves so that we can all have continued access to food and supplies. Some have to continue driving trucks and dropping off packages to serve those who are committing to social distancing and avoiding shopping at stores.

I’ll be honest, if I could just not go to work and stay home, I selfishly would. But I’m viewing this pandemic and the extra hours I’m required to work as an opportunity to serve those around me.

Lastly, I want to say thank you. Thank you for all that you’re doing to serve all of us. Whether you find yourself home with a handful of kids who are unexpectedly out of school for several weeks, or scrambling to rearrange things to be able to work from home, or having to sacrifice your work and pay for a while because your place of employment is closed right now, or you’re a public servant who is trying to keep our communities running with things we take for granted (like garbage disposal), or you’re in the few storefronts that will remain open and you’re working long shifts to be able to thoroughly clean surfaces and restock shelves for all of us. Thank you. We all have a role in this. We all have to make sacrifices for the good of the many. Together we can do this.

*** If you’re looking to help out in another way, consider donating blood. The healthcare industry is anticipating an upcoming critical shortage of blood supply as people start getting sick with the virus and are unable to donate or others cancel appointments to donate out of fear of getting the virus while in public. Just this week I’ve personally given several rounds of blood products in the NICU. I can’t imagine being in a situation where there isn’t any available when it’s desperately needed. I know, this means going out in public, but I assure you blood donation centers are doing EVERYTHING they can to ensure your safety so that you can go donate.

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