Shortness of breath… febrile… weakness – these have been the words ringing in my ear as the report is being given to me as the change of shift happens. “Admitting diagnosis – rule out COVID.” It has been a very exhausting, overwhelming, sad, and frightening, to say the least, these past few weeks. How one small virus has overtaken the globe! But is it really the virus?
As a registered nurse, I have been what you call “in the front lines” of taking care of COVID patients. My newly done, pristine orthopedics unit, which is not even a year old, used to take healthy people coming in for elective surgery; however, it has now been converted into a unit for just COVID patients. The healthy people who were coming in for a joint replacement are now coming in fighting to breathe.
The first night that I walked into my unit, my mouth dropped seeing everyone roam the halls in PPE (personal protective equipment) and all the doors closed with contact and droplet precautions, and no family member in sight with balloons and get-well cards. Everyone has been asking me, “Were you ever trained for something like this?” and I respond no. “How can anyone have been trained for something like this?”
People have also been asking me, “Are you scared to go to work? Yes, I am terrified.” But I am not terrified of getting COVID because I believe that Hashem is protecting me and my family because of the achrayus He put me in. I am more terrified when family members call me and ask me, “Why is his oxygen saturation worse than before? What are you doing to treat the virus? Does the chest x-ray look worse or better?” I have been pretty silent on the phone when they asked me these questions, because, to be honest, I just don’t know. I don’t know why he cannot maintain his oxygen. I don’t know if the treatment regimen we are doing is helping. I just don’t know, and it pains me to hear the family members on the other end begging for answers.
I had one patient who was frum, and when I entered his room I wanted to make it clear that I was frum, too. So I said, “You can’t get a more Jewish last name than Horowitz, huh?” and, as he’s trying to catch his breath on his already high level of oxygen, he says, “What’s your last name.” I tell him, and instantly we had a connection. He said to me, slowly and meticulously, in between his breathing, “My three teenagers are at home. They are my everything. I am relying on you guys; you have to get me back to them.” As I struggle to hang his antibiotic in the IV pump, I was speechless. How am I supposed to respond? All I said is, “We are doing everything we can.”
It’s not easy going to work these days, physically, but more emotionally. However, I feel I am more of a need than ever before. It pains me every time I leave a patient’s room and close the door behind me (to maintain isolation precautions), knowing there is no family behind those closed doors to comfort him or her. It pains me to hear the cries of family members who lost their loved ones and couldn’t be there with them in their last moments. The amount of codes being called on the intercom has been too many for me to wrap my head around. Everyone’s been saying, “The storm hasn’t come yet; the worst will be the third week in April.” Don’t say this! It doesn’t have to be. Hashem can hear our cries and turn it around.
There is something I really learned from this: Hashem runs the world and he has a cheshbon for everything he does, whether we understand it or not. I don’t know why he wants us all to spend Pesach alone without our families. I also don’t know why Hashem is taking people to Shamayim with Him sooner than we thought. But with no yeshivos and minyanim to learn and daven at, there is obviously another way Hashem wants us to get close to Him. I have some ideas of maybe what He wants, but the details aren’t important, as my husband has said, “He just wants us close to Him.” Forget all the details and just get close to Him! Cry out to Him to stop this pandemic, and just talk to Him!
I found it very ironic how this all came around the time of Pesach – a time when we’re supposed to be davening at the Seder table that we all be redeemed. Isn’t this exactly how we all feel now? In exile more than before! While many of us will be spending this Pesach alone, let’s take this opportunity to really cry out for Mashiach. Understand that it’s not the virus overtaking the globe, but Hashem showing us who is really in control.
B’ezras Hashem, we will be exiled from this pandemic and exiled from galus entirely. I hope Mashiach comes speedily and that the newly done orthopedic unit can be closed for good.
It’s really from the heart, and echoes exactly the way all of the frum nurses, NPs, and PAs at our hospital feel.
By Rachel Greenberg, RN