What healthcare is like right now

This is my own perspective, and does not represent my employer.
I have been seeing COVID posts and COVID vaccine posts shared by those not in health care. I am NOT a frontline employee. I work in data as support staff. From where I sit, this is what has occurred in healthcare since the pandemic began.

COVID hit. Healthcare workers became heroes. Frontline nurses and doctors died, got sick, and many worked 12+ hour days helping patients in need. Cleaning staff worked diligently to maintain any spread. Some hospitals had to shut down non-critical services, which resulted in layoffs. Support staff worked extra hours to decrease the burden of the shortage. Supplies ran out. No masks. Few ventilators. Eventually, the first wave ended.

An entire testing and lab ordering system was built up with amazing speed. New treatments emerged, and we hoped for a slow down. Data and dashboard tracking arrived. Non-critical services re-opened. But a second wave hit. This time, fewer patients seemed to die. However, nurses and docs were called to the rescue again. Vaccine development was pushed. The second wave slowed.

And a third wave rolled in. Treatments were better, lab results faster. Yet, nurses, docs, and support staff were called on again. But this time, they were getting tired and burned out. Nursing is largely female, and  many nurses are mothers. It was impossible for many to maintain work, family, and the stress of remote education. Doctoring is already a stressful position. A third wave made the stress worse. The health care workforce started to dwindle. Hospital beds stayed full. Outpatient areas stayed busy. Thankfully, vaccines became authorized for emergency use! We started to rejoice at the thought of science overcoming COVID. And again – the wave started to subside.

Things were calm for a minute as people made their choice on getting vaccinated. Vaccines brought needed joy to a burdened workforce. But then health care had to make a difficult choice.

Many patients refused treatment if their healthcare provider wasn’t vaccinated. Yet, some (15-30%ish) of healthcare workers weren’t ready yet. Health care started requiring the vaccine.

The mandated vaccine caused a lot of tough discussions. Some healthcare workers got the vaccine because they had to. Some refused for their religion. Some protested, saying they felt their freedom to choose was infringed upon. Others who were vaccinated got upset. They didn’t want to work with people that wouldn’t get vaccinated. Some patients were grateful to know their healthcare provider was vaccinated. Other patients were upset a vaccine was mandated.

Hospital floors lost more staff. Outpatient areas called agencies begging for nurses. But there are no nurses left. Doctors are exhausted, burned out, and tired. A crisis looms.

And now – the fourth wave is hitting. Floors are full of patients as healthcare struggles to maintain a grip on a hellish pandemic. Some supplies are dwindling again. Ventilators are being counted in case they run out. Capacity is full.

I share this not to scare anyone, but the reality is hard. Right now, healthcare needs your love, kindness, and support. It is needed now more than ever.

If you want to help, spread kindness, and do all you can to maintain your health. If you know a Frontline staff worker, thank them and just listen. They need you, and they need us.

On building a COVID legacy…

Legacy is an important thing. A well examined life means thinking about the future, but it also means reflecting on the past. It means asking “How did I live my life, and what do my actions say about me?” Many things define a person. Good or bad, right or indifferent, we can use many things to define our lives. Some use family and friends, others use cars and money. The most common measuring stick is our actions, and how we have chosen to treat others along the way.

When I was getting divorced nearly ten years ago, I had several people tell me I was being too kind. I had one person told me I should have tried to get alimony from my ex. I had another person tell me they would never give an ex-spouse a dime of money. My philosophy was that I wanted what was fair, and I wanted him to get off my back (duh). So I quickly gave up more money than the average person. I also did one other thing: I tried to never do anything I thought I would regret. When I look back on getting divorced, I have no regrets about my actions.

The last few weeks have been tough for my family and I, and tough for many people we know. In mid-March, we were supposed to attend a gala. Instead, we stayed at home. In late-March, we were meant to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday in Wisconsin. Instead, we stayed at home. Sunday was Carly’s second birthday. Instead of having that Sesame Street party, we did a fifteen minute online get together. I have left the house a handful of a times in a month; mostly for prenatal care.

No person I know has not lost something due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every person has had events cancelled or delayed. Many have lost jobs or work. And some have lost so much more. As the death toll continues to rise, as of yesterday, our country has lost over 23,000 lives. In the next few weeks and months, we will lose more.

It isn’t just those 23,000. It is their loved ones who suffer, and they must suffer alone in their homes. If just 25 per lost life are sad or hurt over those 23,000 – that would mean about 575,000 are feeling the pain of a loved one lost. That is a few under every man, woman, and child in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (pop. 592k) feeling a sudden loss.

And what about the 580,000 Americans that have tested positive for COVID? Given the lack of testing, delayed tests, and those who could never afford treatment – that number is grossly underestimated. What if we do the same math as before? If 25 per sick person are impacted in some way by those 580,000 – it would mean 14.5 million American lives ‘impacted.’ What is impact? Just living with knowing? Holding their hand as they suffer? Bringing them a tray of food as they are quarantined inside?

While the numbers are large, the impact is exponential. And the unknown consequences of a world living through a pandemic will live on for decades. We all know that after this life will never be the same again. We are living through a trauma together.

Michigan is a following a ‘Stay home, stay safe’ order. My family has taken that to heart. We stay at home, and we only leave if it is essential. When we do go out, we wear masks and gloves. In our actions, we support our governor, white ribbon workers, and we are doing everything we can to lessen the spread of this pandemic.

In a few months, I want to be able to give birth to our new baby, and not be scared I will have to be alone in the delivery room because the pandemic has lingered.

In one year, I want our daughters to be able to receive safe childcare where the threat of COVID is minimized.

In five years, I want to know I worked with my community to re-build our lives after this pandemic.

In ten years, I want to look back on our lives and know we did everything we could do prioritize the lives of the people around us.

In twenty years, I want to tell Carly that I put aside childish desires (like a gala, or a birthday party) for the health of a stranger I do not know.

In thirty years, I want to tell my grandchildren I was not petty or silly. I want to tell them I did not protest over dirt, knowing those in Syria and Yemen do not even have their own land to fight over during this pandemic.

In fifty years, I want to tell my maker that I did unto others as I would have them do unto me. I will tell Jesus I said kind things, I put the needs of others above my own pride, and that I did it with as much love and compassion as possible. I will tell Him that my legacy was one in which He could find great delight.