That was the 4th of March 2020, just another day at work in the life of a critical care nurse. I was all set to travel back home to India on the 5th of March. My leave application was approved by the line manager. My parents were excited to welcome me back home and then this happened, a colleague of mine just came to me and asked if I received an official email from the HR for annual leave cancellation including those which were already approved. I just ignored and replied in Arabic “Khalliwalli” (which means I don’t care). Look at my confidence; I knew no one could stop me from going home. But unfortunately all leaves got canceled including mine as directed by HR. That’s when COVID19 entered my nursing life.
There were already many things that were making rounds in the society about this deadly disease which had already killed thousands in China and many others in Europe and the WHO had already crowned it as pandemic with its director-general briefing in media as follows, “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. We have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled.”
I started treating COVID19 patients in the critical care unit. However, providing nursing care was challenging in the midst of the risk of contracting the virus.
Sharing the challenges that I came across while treating COVID19 patients-
The Personal protective equipment crisis:
The initial stages of fighting this pandemic was very scary than it ever seemed to be. The extravagant use of Personal protective equipment (PPEs), that’s where the world completely lost the initial phase of battling the coronavirus and it still, haunts every frontline health worker (FHW) around the globe. Well, the fear was so intense that the PPEs were used lavishly and unfortunately we had very few left.
Fear for life
Being a FHW, it’s important to be courageous and bold but not mandatory. FHWs are humans and its quite obvious that we too have emotions but this time around, the pandemic had blown our emotions out of proportion. There were many factors for it such as the use of social media to spread fake news and more importantly it was spreading like the bush fire in Australia. Yes! The most amongst us were becoming weak mentally and that’s where we lost the second phase of the battle. Lack of PPEs and now this mental exhaustion and fear caused by increasing cases and deaths, the fear of being contracted the disease, etc.
Ray’s of hope
We somehow managed to be ready to fight this battle. The battle of saving lives from COVID19 at the cost of risking our own. The strategies to motivate the FHW’s were developed. We needed it desperately and now it is available. The PPEs across all the units in the hospital were redistributed especially focusing more on COVID19 wards. FHW’s were provided with hotel accommodation to make sure that FHW’s were separated from their families to ensure safety and reduce transmission. The mass screening for all FHW’s was organized. Sick leave as well as medical leave provided for those staff that were battling autoimmune conditions and were pregnant. Dietary consultation was the sort to help prepare dietary changes in food consumed by FHW’s to make sure we eat the right food which helps us stay strong physically. The quick Nursing Research was given top priority to find out the missing pieces of information in fighting the virus.
Recognition and appreciation: We were called as “Living Angels”
The families of the Non-COVID as well as COVID patients kept motivating us by appreciating our efforts either by words or gifts. The police officers were so kind as to salute us on our way back home as they too were busy to ensure the safety of the public during the lockdown. We were provided by free meals by giant food restaurants like Mc Donald’s, KFCs, etc, and also discounts given by many others. The whole world had started appreciating the FHW, the nurses, THE LIVING ANGELS some called. All these efforts taken by the government, the hospital as well the citizens and residents of this country to motivate us in fighting this war against COVID 19 has been exemplary and will continue to be even amidst this recession caused by this pandemic.
The war is not over yet we still have many lives to look after, many lives still at risk, and many more left to screen. I or any other nurse will never see the caste, creed, religion, or place of origin or power dynamics to treat the patient. We are here to treat everyone without any differences.
Finally to wind up on a funny note I will treasure these pandemic memories for developing a nasal bridge pressure injury due to the use of N95 masks, the sweat that was produced after donning the PPEs, and the weight that I lost fighting this pandemic (almost 6 kgs). Nowadays I do feel a sense of being and human to serve during this pandemic situation. I thank this profession who taught me human values to treat and care when the world is under crisis. I WILL CONTINUE TO BE ONE TILL I HAVE THIS LIFE LEFT IN ME
Written by, Jaison Preetham Fernandes, Registered Nurse skilled in Critical care nursing, Critical care patient communication, Journal Writing, Nursing Research, Nursing Education, and Conference Speaker
Hobbies: Professional videographer and editor
Education: Post Graduation in critical care nursing from Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine (ISCCM), Mumbai, Bachelors of Nursing from Government College of Nursing, Bangalore
Facilitated by :Prashanthi Kamath, http://iaph2030.org/members/ravijakamath123/