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Welcome to JOIN, or DIE. Here, I will share my thoughts. Take it for what you will, agree, disagree or indifferent. Start a discussion or a revolution. I welcome it all, but don’t tread on me.

 

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Thoughts on new work schedules

For those of you who know me, and those who do not, I recently started a new job in the cardiac cath lab at my hospital. Leaving the ICU was a difficult decision for several reasons, the greatest being the incredible coworkers I’ve grown to adore and trust (and still do!!!). But at the end of the day, I was ready for change, and caring for cardiac patients has been something I’ve longed to do since my first nursing position.

Strangely, my only hesitation with accepting the cath lab position was the new schedule: Monday through Friday 0700-1530, weekends off only. I didn’t mind the on-call schedule (of which there is a fair amount), I didn’t mind the wearing of lead while in the lab, nor the exposure to radiation. But working M-F? Like a normal person? I thought, ‘ew, I’m going to have no time for myself.’

As insane as this sounds, I’ve worked three 12-hour shifts a week (36 hours) since I started nursing over 8 years ago, and I had grown to NEED my four days off a week. Honestly, I’d never known a normal work schedule.

And to me, it was glorious! Work three days a week and have four whole days off a week for myself? Who wouldn’t love that kind of a work schedule? I felt like I discovered the secret to life. I mean, who wouldn’t want four days off in a week? That’s like winning at the work-life game, right?! Granted, the four days off weren’t always in a row, but still, you could work two shifts, have two days off, work one shift, have another two days off. There were ways it was still awesome. And HELLO, no crowds at the beach on a random Tuesday!

So to put matters lightly, I was freaked. Needless to say, I of course accepted the job, because getting into cardiology, my first love, was a no-brainer. Knowing my affinity for all things cardiac, my ICU coworkers had even commented they were surprised I hadn’t applied over there sooner.

My last ICU shift was a Purple Friday (no rhyme or reason, we just all wear purple on Friday), and my lovely coworkers gave me a very heartfelt send-off (think flowers, quiche, and pumpkin cheesecake!). I couldn’t have asked for a better final day in the unit (even though the first hour or so was abysmal with my incarcerated patient, but go big or go home, right!?)

That gave me the weekend to recuperate from my final 12-hour shift, and to begin my journey into 8-hour shifts, five days a week.

Well, Monday came and went–we were super busy in the lab that day. They had me exclusively in the lab shadowing and watching the procedures, which was AWESOME! The rest of the week was much of the same, and honestly, it flew by. Getting to go home “early”, at 1530, was a dream I didn’t know I’d wished for.

I got home by 4PM, and I suddenly had time after work to get things done. I ran to the grocery store, I cooked dinner. Rather than getting home at 8PM and rushing to shovel food into my mouth before showering and hauling my ass to bed to get some sleep before another grueling 12-hour day (which usually ends up being a 15-hour day from waking up to going to sleep), I got to take my time in the evenings before getting ready for bed.

Week two in the cath lab was much of the same. And I noticed another thing–I felt rested waking up at 0530. When I worked 12s, I’d always felt groggy, like I hadn’t had enough sleep even though I was ALWAYS in bed by 10PM at the latest. Most nights it was 9PM.

And only weekends off? I’ll be honest, from Friday afternoon through Sunday night felt like plenty of time off, and this shocked me. I was ready to get back to work Monday morning. Maybe that’s just my naivet√© with being so enamored with a new job, but still! I’m encouraged by my eagerness to get into the lab and learn. Weekends? Who needs weekends when there’s heart caths to learn?

So, what conclusion can I draw from these two work schedules?

This is solely based on my own personal experience, but (and I never thought I’d admit this or come around to believing it) working 12s is toxic.

It turns out, you physically need four days off a week just to recover and catch up from working 12-hour long shifts. And looking back on it, this was the real reason I felt I needed more than two days off a week. I always took at least one whole day to decompress because I’d needed it. My brain and body were fried. I was of no use that first day off. Then the other days were spent catching up on things that literally could not get done on the days I was working, IE errands, grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, and cleaning.

So really, my days off weren’t really days off. They were recovery, ‘catching up’ days.

I never realized how toxic that schedule was for me until I got onto M-F. I now have routine. I now have time to get things done after work, like hit up the grocery store, post office, or Rite Aid. I can vacuum and clean if I want. I can cook. I can call friends and family without worrying it’s too late.

And my weekends off? I can actually enjoy some R and R, and not have to worry about playing catch-up on anything.

I miss the ICU and I miss my coworkers over there (you’ll always be family to me!). But I am so very happy with the decision I made. Change can be terrifying, and choosing to leave the creature comforts I’d grown accustomed to was nerve-wracking to say the least. But I am so glad I did it. My new coworkers have been so welcoming, are chill and hilarious, and so very intelligent and knowledgeable about their specialty. I’ve much to learn, but I am so excited to learn from them.

Part of me feels like maybe I was always meant to do this job. Something about it feels right. Don’t get me wrong, I am terrified to be on my own (and I won’t be flying solo for a while, thank the gods!) and I have an enormous learning curve to climb. But being this specialized within cardiac medicine is something I’ve always wanted, yet was too apprehensive to take the plunge.

I’m thankful for the colleagues–both ICU and cardiology–who gave me the extra “push”, the kind words of encouragement I needed.

I hope this will be my forever home in the hospital–right next door to the ICU where I can visit them often, but specialized in my own cardiac haven.

Turns out, I wouldn’t trade this new schedule for anything. Weird how our bias can change with just a little bit of experience and perspective, isn’t it?

Now for a little bit of cheese at the end here, and it may just be because I’m new and still diligently learning this job, but…they say love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.

These past two weeks? I didn’t work a single day.

Thoughts on being an author

It’s been a few months since I’ve last updated the blog and so much has happened. So a quick recap should suffice.

In February, Muskets & Minuets had its cover release, which was super fun and awesome to count down to. I still can’t believe how beautiful the cover is. When having this manuscript as a published work was just a fantasy of my mind, a daydream and no more, I don’t think I could have dreamt up a more perfect cover. My deepest gratitude goes out to the illustrator, Marlowe Lune. You should check them out! https://www.marlowelune.com/ I really don’t know how I got lucky enough to deserve a cover that beautiful for my beloved book. I am still wordless over it.

In March, I stepped onto a plane and visited my best friend (she lives in South Carolina) and I just about had the best weekend I’d had in a long time. I don’t think I laughed so hard or smiled so much in well over a year! Seeing her is physick for my soul, especially since she lives a plane ride away. She is my sister from another mister, my soul sister, and we’ve been best friends for literally our entire lives. Truly. Our earliest memories of life include each other, so it is quite literally, our whole lives.

April was all about good weather and a secret project I’m doing for Muskets & Minuets. I’ll give you a hint (for those of you who follow me on social media, you probably already saw); on April 19th, we remembered the anniversary of the battles at Lexington and Concord. I went to Minuteman National Park dressed in my 18th century attire. Needless to say, it wasn’t without purpose. More on that to come! *chuckles evilly*

And at last, we’ve arrived at the present. Which is a gift. No, but really, I am just stunned by what’s been happening in my author life. I never thought I could call myself an author. I’ve always identified as a nurse, which I still am, but ‘author’ was always a special title, a status to which I always aspired but never deemed attainable. This month, I feel I can truly call myself ‘author’.

Muskets & Minuets was released on Amazon for ebook pre-order. I was excited–it came faster than I thought it would–and so I was also nervous. I promoted a bit on social media over the coming days, and people I knew messaged me they had pre-ordered, so that was cool. Lots more asked when they could pre-order the physical book. More to come on that!

But then one night, as I was about the turn off the light, I checked my Amazon link and saw this…

Number 1?! Are you sure?! Is this real? Is Amazon playing me?! How? What?! I scrolled a bit saw that Muskets & Minuets was also ranked at #8 for its category of sellers. #8?! HOW?! It was on the same best seller list as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Seeds of America series, and Johnny Tremaine.

Oh, this…this is an honor I am not worthy of. There must be some mistake. This can’t be real. My book is only up for pre-order for Kindle, and no one has yet read it!

But it is real. And I am so overwhelmed with joy. I know these numbers are transient, and at any given time, my rank drops and lifts, but in that moment, I was #8. And then Thursday, I rose to #6! It has since dropped, and that’s totally fine, but holy crap, I was ranked #6 for my category! Does this classify my novel as a ‘best seller’, even before it’s been released? I was in the top 10, so that must count for something!

This is more than I could have hoped for. Truly. If I reached local readers who enjoyed my book, family, friends…then I felt I would be a success. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I could make a list like that with just pre-orders. It gives me pause, and then a bit of saucy hope for what may be to come when paperback is up for pre-order, and then when the book is actually released come October. OCTOBER!!!! We’ve still got five whole months to go!

For the meantime, I am working on marketing. It’s all so new and overwhelming, but I’m trying. I’ve never been the best promoter of anything, really, and that’s probably why I’m a nurse and not in business. But I’m sincerely trying. And something must be working, so I thank YOU, gentle reader, for your support. Because without you, I doubt I’d be where I’m at today.

And with this bit of good news, I leave you to your day. May it be filled with sunshine and only good things to come!

Thoughts on hospital entitlement

Okay, here we go. This is a rant, and I only half apologize if I offend you, gentle reader. But the past two days at work cannot have occurred without my having written an entry about it on my day off. And holy God, it was a doozey.

It should come as no surprise to you that as nurses (and docs), we are burnt the hell out. After the year we’ve had, ALL medical professionals are burnt out. I mean, you think the general public has had it bad? Yes. They have. But multiply your woes by 100%, then you’ll have where we’re all at right now in healthcare.

We are running on empty, 1/4 tank at best, and then this shit happens. And it just pushes me over the edge.

I need to preface this entry by reminding you all that I truly am a compassionate, empathetic, caring person, both with patients, and with people outside of work. I can usually, if not always, empathize with people. But hot damn, my patience was tried at work these past two days.

Any coincidence that patience and patients sound the same? I bet not.

So, the ICU was a hot mess clown show the last two days I worked. It was nuts, with confused people jumping out of bed, COVID rule-outs requiring us to put on full garb every time we went into the room, suicide watches…you name it. And then a rapid response on our sister unit, which turned into a code. If any of you reading this knows anything about healthcare, a code is as emergent as it gets. For those of you who don’t know, a code blue is when a patient becomes unresponsive, loses their pulse, and requires CPR. It’s a hospital emergency. It’s called overhead, docs, medics, pharmacists, people from all walks of life suddenly appear. It’s a crowded, overwhelming situation where emotion and tension run high, and life is literally at stake. So it’s a big deal, right? If YOU coded, you’d want everyone there attending to you, right?

So this code happens. Not only does this code take up out last ICU bed–the code bed–we have jumper-McGee down the hall setting off his bed alarm, COVID pump beeping two rooms away–a whole unit full of other patients requiring critical care–and the patient next door sets off their call light.

“Hi, yeah, I need my klonopin.”

“Okay, well, there’s a code going on, patient #9. Your nurse is tied up helping try to save their life.”

“Oh yeah, I know. I just wanted to make sure they didn’t forget.”

Um. What?! Pardon my French but, are you fucking kidding me?!

When I heard this I lost my shit. After the year we’ve all had, this is NOT the kind of hubris we need on our unit. Sorry, patient #9, you are NOT as important as patient #10 who is basically DEAD in the next room. Your request for klonopin is NOT as important as the epinephrine I need to give to the nurse pushing meds on patient #10 who just got a pulse back but is still going in and out of PEA and needs the epi and chest compressions. Patient #9, if you code later, you can expect all of us to pay you just as much attention as patient #10 is receiving right now. So. Just shut. The. Fuck. Up.

That’s what we all wanted to say. That’s what patient #9 needed to hear. But of course none of that was said. It probably would’ve fallen on deaf ears anyhow.

But the audacity of such a statement! The entitlement of “I want this now, even though I know someone else is sicker than me and is getting all the attention right now, but I don’t care because I want what I want, and I want it now” is just not acceptable.

It honestly makes me sick.

How can someone go through life behaving that way? Knowing someone else is DYING in the next room and believe their request for medication is more important? Maybe they are that ignorant. Maybe they are that clueless. Maybe they are that heartless.

I don’t know man, but holy crap that made me mad. Especially because the patient we were trying to save was a patient we frequently cared for, someone we knew well, someone we desperately had to save.

Well, you’re probably wondering if we saved them, right? We did.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Patient entitlement followed me into the next day.

So Thursday is just as nuts, but with a different cast of characters, namely being the nurses on shift and a couple of different patients. I was the only nurse to return after Wednesday’s shit-show. We’ve got a new patient, Screamer, to add to the pleasantries of the unit.

But Thursday was hard for other reasons. Patient #10, the one we’d saved on Wednesday, lived to actually say good-bye to their family, and on Thursday, we terminally extubated them. They died quickly, and that was hard for all of us. Our life-saving efforts from the previous day culminated in what we all knew would happen, and they passed. It was both sad and relieving, to see them breathe easy for the first time I’d known them. They finally looked at peace, and I think that brought me some solace amidst this quagmire of hell.

Then I got an admission. A patient who’d had a big heart attack at home and survived, then decided to come to the hospital the day after it happened. Go figure.

The ER brings them up and they’re a real peach.

“So I’m gonna need you to turn off all the beeping and shut the lights off so I can get some rest.”

I’m dumbfounded and immediately on edge. “Um, you’re in the ICU, you had a huge heart attack. We’re monitoring you. We’ll do our best to minimize things but you’re going to be getting vital signs checked every hour.”

Like what the HELL!? If you don’t want to be here, then why the HELL did you come in?!

Then I have to ask all my dumb admissions questions to this person who doesn’t even want to be admitted.

“Did you get that COVID vaccine?” they ask me.

“I sure did! I feel great.” I’m trying real hard to be nice here, people.

They then proceed to tell me they don’t believe in vaccines. I find this irritating, as I find all anti-vaxers, but okay, fine. You can refuse the flu and pneumonia vaccines I’m offering you. No skin off my back. You do you, boo.

“I especially don’t believe in that COVID vaccine,” they say.

Now I’m annoyed. Are they trying to piss me of? Are they trying to clout importance of some sort? Not only am I not even offering it to them, they know I’m vaccinated because they just asked me!

“That’s fine. We’re not offering it to you, it’s just for hospital staff right now,” I reply with a hint of curtness. Part of me wonders if they noticed my growing agitation. At this point, I don’t even care.

And this gets me to the part where I proceed to try and get an IV in this person. I have the overhead lights on and they say, “I need you to turn these off.”

“Well, I like to see when I’m placing an IV, so they’re going to stay on until I’m done.”

I mean, what can you even say to these people? I often wonder where they think they are that they think they can behave so entitled? I want to ask, “Do you think you’re in a hotel? A restaurant?” Of course I could never says such things to our “customers” but DAMN I wish I could.

Why is healthcare treated like a business? Why are patients treated like customers? I think this is where the entitlement comes in. But the fact remains, they aren’t customers. They are patients. And don’t EVER come at me with some bullshit from Dr. Google. If you know so much about medicine, then I guess you don’t have to see a doctor. I mean, it’s not like doctors do anything extra to earn the title of Medical Doctor–as in, Doctor of Medicine–right? They didn’t attend four years of undergrad, possibly having majored in pre-med, only to attend four years of medical school, then endure more years as interns and residents–I worked with residents and interns at a teaching hospital, they work their BUTTS off, 6 days a week, 12 hours a day–before becoming fellows, and then finally, attendings.

Nope!

Clearly, doctors’ education is no different than you or me sitting in front of the computer for an hour researching symptoms on Google. That’s all any of us should do, right? I mean, that’s how it seems when entitled patients argue with providers and then cite Google as better medical information.

Come on. Get a grip and get your head out of your ass. That’s what I want to say to these bozos coming in, complaining and dictating their care, ignoring the fact we have other sick patients on the floor. Get a reality check. You’re not the only patient here, you’re not the only sick person in the hospital, or even on the planet! If we’re not in your room that often, be GLAD. It means you’re not crashing! That’s a good thing.

And for the love of the gods, if you know a code is going on, have a little humility and wait to ring that call bell, unless of course, you think you’re going to code, too.

End rant.

Thank you for reading, and let this be a PSA to you, if you or someone you know ends up in hospital. I know you’re feeling unwell, and we want to treat you! But we need a little humility on your end, and some trust. So please, give us the benefit of the doubt and let us do our jobs.

By the way, we saved that patient, remember? They woke up after coding four times, and were alert and oriented enough to write on a clipboard to their family members.

We don’t tell you how to do your job, so please do not tell me how to do mine.

Thoughts on getting vaccinated

Better late than never, I suppose, on this one!

Well, I’m more than a month out since being fully vaccinated with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. AND I FEEL GREAT!

For the first time in a year, since this pandemic really got into full swing, I feel confident at work; taking care of COVIDs, by now, has become old hat, but even more so, I don’t think twice about taking care of them. I’m less nervous, less anxious, and for me, that is everything.

I’ll never forget the fear, the trepidation, the anxiety, of donning all my PPE, my CAPR helmet, and heading into that first COVID room. It usually was accompanied with the thought, “well, here we go, for better or worse” and “this might be the shift I get COVID so be prepared”.

For you non-medical professionals out there, imagine having an extra stressor at your job that caused you have those thoughts every time you went to work. Imagine the angst it would place on your life, especially if your job was already stressful. Now, imagine that thing you’re extra nervous about can kill you. Envision yourself seeing others die from it, not just once, but several times. You see these people suffering, because let’s face it, it’s not a pleasant, peaceful death, but one in which they are tormented, incapable of breathing, and cannot see their families. Imagine that.

That was my 2020.

So of course, I was going to get the COVID vaccine; even if it is new technology, even if it is only 95% effective (that is a great statistic, by the way). Was I nervous a bit? OF COURSE I WAS! Who isn’t nervous about taking new medication?

But I listened to my docs–the colleagues who have been by my side this entire pandemic and prior, and you know what? The had insightful things to say. I read literature. I listened to scientists. And you know what? I got the shot. It was the best decision I could’ve made for myself.

Gentle reader, I want to put you at ease, so let me walk you through what it was like.

I received Pfizer’s vaccine, and it comes to you in two shots spaced 21 days apart. I received the first vaccine on a day I was at work. For 15 minutes post shot, I sat in a room with others to make sure I didn’t have any kind of allergic reaction. I felt very safe and secure. I experienced no symptoms, save for my deltoid being sore later that evening. It was no different than any other vaccine I’d received in my lifetime. Think flu vaccine. If you’ve never gotten the flu shot, think tetanus vaccine–sore arm, can’t really sleep on it that night but feels better the next day. No biggie! (Let’s be real, better than getting COVID. Am I right?! Yes.)

Okay so second shot. I got it exactly 21 days later, practically to the minute. Again, I was at work that day, and again, after getting the shot, I sat for 15 minutes in a room of people in case I had a reaction. I did not. I did not have any symptoms until around 3PM when my arm started to feel sore. No biggie.

By the time I got home that evening from work (12 hour shifts, in case you didn’t know) around 7:30/8:00, I was feeling fatigued. Not horribly different from the end of any regular shift, but I felt some chills as well. But by the time I’d showered and gotten into bed, I felt freezing. No fever, just extreme chills. I woke up the next day feeling shitty. I took some Tylenol and it made me feel a bit better. But generally, I felt malaise and myalgias throughout the day. This is a normal immune response.

My fever only got to 99.5 at its worst (I don’t get fevers ever, so that felt hot to me) but I know others who got into the 100 range after their second shot. Thankfully, I was able to just hang low that day, and relax. I took some Advil, and the next day…I woke up feeling normal. So, to reiterate, this is a NORMAL IMMUNE RESPONSE. My body was making antibodies–little soldiers who will go to war for me and kick the ass off that coronavirus bastard. That’s a good thing!

And that was it. 36 hours of feeling a bit crummy. And completely worth it if it means my chances of getting COVID are 5%. You know what’s even better? The Pfizer vaccine is reported to 100% keep you from being hospitalized if in that 5% chance you do contract COVID. So I am now 100% protected against COVID making me sick enough to be hospitalized. For me that is a TOTAL win. Let’s be real here, and I’ve said in this previous posts: you do NOT want to be intubated.

I know not every person is capable of being vaccinated, so don’t “at” me with “but…I have blah blah and my doctor says…” Yes. I know. Not everyone can be vaccinated. People who are immunocompromised may not qualify for this kind of vaccine. ALWAYS check with your docs first. Hell, I checked with mine before getting vaccinated, too! That’s being a responsible patient and taking responsibility for your health.

I am just giving you my experience and why I chose to get vaccinated. If anything, for the peace of mind it gave me, it was completely worth it. And I’d do it again.

So there’s my story. Take it for what you will. Agree, disagree, indifferent, you do what you want to do with your life. But know that this vaccine is the key to ending this pandemic and getting life back to “normal”–whatever the hell that is!

But really, just be safe out there, practice good hand hygiene (as always), WEAR A MASK, and if you think getting vaccinated is right for you, check with your doctor and SIGN UP!!

Thoughts on entering 2021

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. December was grueling, as I suspected it would be, but not for the reasons I’d anticipated; the untimely death of a beloved coworker still has us all grieving.

I’d hoped to post something New Year’s Eve, but I couldn’t gather my thoughts in a meaningful way. Then I worked New Year’s Day and the weekend, so that ruined any chance I had of making a New Year’s Day post.

So here I sit, January 5th, finally able to write. Strangely, today is fitting; it’s the last day of the Twelve Days of Christmas: Twelfth Night, or Epiphany. It’s usually the day I un-decorate my Christmas tree and take it down. We didn’t get a tree this year, so that won’t be happening.

In any event, I think we’re all relieved and cautiously optimistic for 2021. I think we hope it will be better than 2020 ever was. Since the bar is set pretty low, 2021 doesn’t have to try very hard to be better than its predecessor.

That being said, this year is already starting out better than last year. For me personally, my parents finally found a house! It’s literally been one year since they put up my childhood home for sale, the catalyst and kickoff to my shitty 2020. I still have days where I feel the heartache of that loss.

But 2021 promises a new house for them, and alleviates all accompanying anxiety of finding their new forever home. Now it’s full of excitement–they get to build a house and choose what they want. After a year of real estate hell and so much dejection, it’s something they so very much deserve. I couldn’t be happier for them!

On Friday, I’ll be getting my second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Round 1 went well, so I’m hoping round 2 won’t be so bad, though I’m expecting to feel pretty gross. At this point, I’ll do almost anything to get our world back into some semblance of normalcy, and that includes getting vaccinated. I hope the public, when it’s available to them, will do the same. It’s truly our only hope of getting out of this pandemic.

I know not much, if anything, has changed since 2020, but I do feel hopeful. Maybe looking at the new year as a new chance is a coping mechanism, but I couldn’t go on dragging myself through the filth and grit of 2020 forever. I needed something, some reason to pull myself out of the COVID mire. So much happened in 2020, so many changes, deaths, fear, exhaustion, despair–2021 HAS to be better; even if it’s only slightly better, I’ll take it.

Looking back on NYE ten years ago, I celebrated in Sydney, Australia. I’ve often considered 2010 to be the best year of my life, and I capped it off with a bucket list item. It was everything I could have hoped for.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

Pictured is my favorite photo of me from my trip to the Land Down Under. I’m on a cliff at Bondi Beach, and feeling I’ve conquered it all. I have so many more pictures to document 2010, it’s not even funny. It truly was the year I found myself.

I’m not saying 2021 will be my next 2010. It’s actually impossible for it to be that good. But I can start on the path to getting back to that person in the photo. I may have hit rock bottom in 2020, but I can only go up from here. I’m ready to make 2021 the year of me, where I make myself a priority and find myself again. It’s the only way I can create the happiness in my life I so crave. It sounds selfish, but how can we care for others when we can’t even care for yourselves?

It’s the only way we all can create the happiness we want and deserve, especially after the shit show that was 2020.

So here’s to a moderately better 2021. May it be full of improved health, vaccines, competent leadership, and a willingness to get along and compromise. Together, we can make 2021 better than last year (and remember, we don’t have to try too hard!). Let’s aim to get back on that cliff at Bondi Beach, with the breeze in our hair, the sun in our face, and an endless ocean of possibilities at our fingertips.

We are strong, but we are stronger together. And together, we can make it through this year, and on to better, brighter days. We can only control so much, and what we can, we should try. As for the rest, it’s up to the universe.

As I’ve ended each entry in my personal journal for the past several years: “om namo narayani”, which is Sanskrit, and more or less means “I surrender/bow to the power of the universe/divine”. It’s both humbling and empowering.

Cheers to 2021!

Thoughts on the loss of a beloved coworker

Tuesday night, our ICU changed forever.

It’s taken me until this morning to gather my thoughts on this senselessness tragedy, this unfair death of a beloved nurse coworker and friend. And this morning, it’s hard to accept the sun will keep rising on a world without her in it. In a year that’s been dark for most of us, it has become a much, much darker place.

The biggest question that comes to mind is, why? Why her? Why now? She was nearly my age, far too young to meet the fate we all must eventually know.

Why her family? How much anguish can one family handle? How can a parent ever learn to cope with losing a child? How can a sibling? They say time heals all wounds, and perhaps time does dull the sting of pain, but that gaping hole in one’s heart never closes, does it?

She’s left her mark on our ICU family, and will never be forgotten. Her infectious laughter, brilliant smile, and sparkling eyes, she was beautiful both inside and out. I admired her affinity for taking care of the more difficult patients that others didn’t get along with. She had the special way of putting gruff patients in their place, and of befriending the somewhat manic; and by the end of her shift, she was their best friend. I loved that about her.

We shared taking care of COVIDs. We spent half a shift tallying up how many COVIDs we’d cared for this year; a special bonding moment for us to commiserate.

She always showed up a little bit late, I’m talking 07:05 to 07:10, and a bit frazzled, but nonetheless ready to take on the day. Whenever I saw we were working together, I knew it was going to be a great shift no matter what came rolling through those ICU doors.

Always particular about her food, she’d keep her breakfast half un-eaten, grazing it all morning, until lunch. The same was true for lunch. I eventually started getting what she ate for breakfast, and I dubbed it “the Rachel”–hash, spinach, and an egg topped with cheese.

We’d chat about our dogs, and I’d ask her about getting her nose pierced–something I’d been wanting to do since April–but what I’ll miss most is gossiping about our favorite docs we worked with. At times, our jests echoed of Brandy and Monica’s 1998 hit “The Boy is Mine”, but in the end we shared our affinities, and through humor, always made the shift more interesting.

One of the more recent shifts that stands out to me was the morning she hauled into the unit, late, and having lost her phone that morning while walking her dog, Shimmer. She was all in a tizzy! We tried so hard to use our phones to try and locate hers using GPS and SnapChat. Needless to say, it didn’t work. She stepped off the unit and while she was gone, her boyfriend–who’d found it–brought the phone in. We placed it at the computer she’d been using and when she returned, we told her it was there the whole time. We laughed a lot that morning.

As I sit here typing about all the things I’m going to miss about her, I vacillate between smiling, laughing, and crying. And if she were here, I suspect she’d give me a warm hug, then tell me to quit crying. It’s so hard to know we’ll never laugh together like that again. It’s devastating to know she’ll never again grace our unit with her bright eyes, sassy attitude, and caring disposition. She was such a hard worker, and so devoted to her patients. She was an essential member of our close-knit ICU family, a unit that is now horribly grieving. We’ve been through so much this year, I don’t know what I’d do without my ICU family.

Rachel, you were one in a million, and I feel so lucky to have known and worked with you. Please be at peace, wherever you are. And I think I’m finally going to get that nose piercing I’ve been talking to you about since April, in honor of you.

You may not be with us, but you will never be forgotten. My COVID buddy, I’ll be thinking of you each time I don my PPE to enter one of those rooms. It’s with somber gratitude I’m glad you not longer have to. And each time our favorite docs grace the unit, I’m sure you’ll be snickering at me from somewhere, perhaps I’ll still hear your laughter.

Girl, you’ve left a piece of yourself within me–and each of us–that will be carried forever, and I thank you from the bottom of my broken heart.

Thoughts on what I miss most

Maybe it’s not useful to perseverate about the things I miss during a pandemic, but on some level, it’s giving me hope, something to look forward to.

But here we go.

I miss singing. I miss going to karaoke with friends. I miss singing in choirs, theatre ensembles, and duets. I miss singing that solo center stage.

I miss dancing. I miss going out in Boston. I miss live music.

I miss seeing people who aren’t coworkers (sorry, guys! I do still love you all!) and Market Basket employees. I’d love to be able to hang out with friends.

I miss travelling. I miss going to the airport, vibrating with excitement about my latest journey. I miss seeing new cities and sites. I miss meeting new people from different places and backgrounds.

I miss going out to eat. I live to eat and drink, and doing it at home just isn’t cutting it. I miss trying new foods and beverages. I miss my old staples on familiar menus.

I miss my family. I haven’t hugged my parents since my birthday on March 11th.

I miss my friends living in South Carolina, New York, Oregon, and England. I miss my family living in Chicago, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, and New York. I never did get to visit any you.

A coworker friend recently said he’s turned into a recluse. I can empathize with that. I, too, have become a hermit, and it’s ravaging my psyche. While I don’t mind being alone (very Piscean), I need to be sociable. I need to see people. I need to go out. Maybe it’s my Leo Rising, but I think I’m an introverted extrovert?

I know we’re all suffering from this pandemic. I know it has to end. The question is: when?

I think the first thing I’m going to do is hug my parents. Then I’ll go to Boston. I’ll go to the North End and walk about Hanover Street. I’ll hit up Union Street and see how my old haunts are holding up. Hopefully they’ll still be in business. Then I’m doing karaoke.

I’ll also be booking plenty of flights, so if you don’t live in New England, get ready ‘cus I’m coming for ya!

Gentle reader, what is it you miss most? What’s the first thing you’re going to do when it’s safe to live life again?

I know one thing is true, 2020 has changed us all in ways we’ll never forget. Hopefully, it’s for the better!

Thoughts on a Nation on Fire

I haven’t posted since July. Too long, but too much has occurred. I couldn’t wrap my head around all that’s happened, and so my writing has suffered. The muse had fled, leaving me bare and exposed, and with my head exploding with thoughts. But today I’m motivated to write.

It’s strange how this year has progressed to encompass all manner of shit, not just for me, but for everyone. There’s not a single person I’ve spoken to who hasn’t flirted with mental instability, who hasn’t been treading water in the deep-end with their nose just above the water-line. It’s been one ass-kicking after another, like we’re in a never-ending episode of Cobra Kai (which is AWESOME by the way!).

2020 came in swinging, and I have a terrible feeling the grand finale is going to have us all reeling in pain.

I won’t go into depth about my own personal struggles, as they are very personal, but since July, I’ve lost two out of my three uncles, I reunited with my birth father via telephone, and I’ve been tested for COVID twice (both were negative, yay).

It doesn’t sound like much (and I am leaving out a couple of other personal things), but each has its own situation that has left me drowning in my thoughts. I suppose the biggest was the whole birth father thing. It’s complicated, and out of respect for him and his family, I won’t say too much, but generally it’s been positive, and we’re all moving very slowly, which is fine. But in the end, I just hope to know them all. It’s been a complete mind-fuck for me, and I can only imagine what it’s like for him and his family.

Throw that on top of COVID resurgence, and some seriously fucked up politics, and you’ve got a recipe for a mental health disaster!

I’m only kind of kidding. This year has tried my mental health to its limits. Thankfully, I have lovely people in my life who bring me joy. But to say it’s been hard is a complete and utter understatement.

The politicization of COVID-19 and mask-wearing has me seriously doubting this population’s intelligence. It’s pathetic. And honestly at this point, it’s simply Social Darwinism. Can we even call this a second surge? Some of these places that are surging never really had a surge in the spring, so isn’t this technically their first surge? That should worry us all. When 2020 ends, it’s not like 2021 is going to waltz in here and save us all from COVID ruin. We’re in this for the long haul. Sorry to break it to you.

But this nation is on fire. Literally, the West Coast is and has been burning, the struggle against racial injustice is being fought, COVID-19 has killed a quarter of a million Americans and is surging again, and we have a clown sitting in the White House running the three ring circus known as our three branches of government. Can it get much worse than this?

Oh yes, it can. And I suspect the election on November 3rd will be the set-up for the 2020 Grand Finale–whatever it may be.

I won’t try and speculate which level of Hell we’re all in right now, or where 2020 will leave us, but I am hoping once we do hit rock bottom, if we’re not there already, we can all take solace in knowing the only way to go from there, will be up.

So, here’s to the hope.

Hopefully, we’ll have a better person to lead this country.

Hopefully, there will be a scientifically validated vaccine for COVID-19 that won’t make us all get Bells Palsy or Guillain-Barre.

Hopefully, there will be systemic reform, and people of all colors, creeds, genders and sexual orientations will be treated equally within it.

Hopefully we can see each other’s faces, our smiles, when we no longer have to wear masks, and can gather together in public places, or indoors, without fear of contracting a virus.

Hopefully hospital workers can go back to their jobs without putting their lives on the line every shift, and will be appreciated.

Hopefully when next we gather with family and friends, we are all there, and no one is missing.

To quote the Dark Knight, “the night is darkest just before the dawn”. Cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Things always get worse before they get better. And when America is on fire, millions of people are trying to put her out, snuff out the flames, so we can rise from the ashes like the Phoenix we’re mean’t to be; stronger, unified, tolerant, resilient, inclusive, better. That is the America we’re meant to be.

That is the America we deserve.

Thoughts for Independence Day

DISCLAIMER: There are sensitive issues in this post, and for that, there is a trigger warning here. If anything I’ve written isn’t true (I have researched, but there’s always room for error, unfortunately) please, please, please contact me. I want only truths, and I am not above being corrected. I am here to listen, learn, and be an ally.

***

This is coming a week late because I needed to first gather my thoughts, then my voice.

To anyone who knows me, it’s no secret I love the Revolutionary War, and I love history. I’m usually quite vocal about it, especially on battle anniversaries, and I’ve even written an historical fiction novel that takes place in 1770s Massachusetts. I’ve done my research, to say the least, and it should be no secret now the history we learn in school comes with bias.

So in this post, we’re going to dive into it and cover some things people don’t like to talk about. I’ll try and ease us in, but this post in its entirety is STILL only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

At the surface, and speaking to all Americans, let’s get the basic facts straight. This nation’s founding wasn’t easy. I do try to remind people of that. No, the fourth of July isn’t when we were independent from Britain. It was when we declared it. The war for that freedom raged on until Yorktown, 1782. Only after the Treaty of Paris in 1783 were we finally recognized as an independent nation.

And it was the Stamp Act of 1765 that actually spawned the revolution–almost two decades prior to our recognized independence.

But it goes deeper, and far bitterer than the fireworks and bbq’s with which we all now celebrate.

This nation was founded on the blood of those men who so ardently believed in the cause. As an American, this is something I acknowledge and honor. No revolution can be fought without bloodshed and loss of life. I feel I must honor the loss of life.

More insidious than the bloodshed of the Revolutionary War, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the even darker truths surrounding America’s birth–which came long before we declared independence in July of 1776. It goes back to when Europeans first stepped foot onto this continent. This nation was founded on land that did not belong to them–land that was stolen–and it was worked on, and economically supported by people stolen into slavery.

Swallow this truth. Now bring it back up again. How does it taste? Bitter? Sour? Vile? It should.

How can we celebrate our independence? My stomach knots and turns into a pit. And I am torn, because as a white woman, I want to honor the militias, minutemen, soldiers, and families who gave their lives fighting for this country’s founding. They believed in a cause so much they rioted, protested, and fought for nearly two decades to secure for their children, their grandchildren, a vision they knew was possible. But for whom? When our founding fathers finally wrote “all men are created equal” in that declaration of independence, did they truly mean it? Or did they mean “all white males are created equal”?

And all of this was at the expense of the natives who were here before them–who were so brutally killed and turned out of their land by colonization and disease; and those who were sold into slavery during the slave trade.

Jefferson’s words are strangely ambiguous in the declaration of independence. It’s known Jefferson kept slaves ion his Virginia plantation, yet he writes “all men are created equal” then goes on to call natives “savages”, which is deplorable, so we are meant to interpret those words in several ways. I want to believe at his core of intents, it was meant, truly, all PEOPLE are created equal. But as we’ve seen from history, and the years after we gain independence, people are anything but equal.

Natives are starved into signing treaties.

Slavery endures.

Women lose their right to vote (yes, women in the colonies could vote prior to independence).

In the light of current awakening (again), this needs to be heard and acknowledged. It always must be heard. Our nation’s founding is a shared history, but I cannot be the voice of the oppressed, and who continue to be oppressed. As a white woman, I can only speak for what I personally know and experience as a white woman. For others, I must listen, learn, and be an ally. We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen more, talk less.

I want to acknowledge the indigenous peoples of America. Their land was taken. Along with this, so was their culture assimilated, and treaties forced on them and broken. What happened to the native peoples of this land is deplorable and inexcusable. I empathize with the anger and resentment, but I can never know what it feels like. I know I cannot be their voice, but I can listen. I can support, and be an ally.

You should, too. Go to this website for starters, and see which tribe’s land you’re inhabiting. Look up that tribe. Learn about them. Listen to them. They are still here (a complicated truth). This is only the simple beginning.

Slavery happened. Unfortunately, the slave trade is not an isolated event in the history of mankind, but the manner in which it ended in this country has left continuous suppression and limitations which oppress the black community. In history classes, we only scrape the surface of this through our white biased education system. There are things they never teach us, and that is an abomination on the truth. I want to learn the truth, I want to hear the truth. I will sit, and I will listen. And I do acknowledge the privilege in which I’ve been raised.

The oppression didn’t stop there. We must acknowledge women–women of all colors, cultures and creeds.

White women had more privilege, but all women were often viewed and treated as men’s property. We went from our father’s house to our husband’s. Seen only as wives and mothers, we were discouraged from the workforce, and are often survivors of sexual assault and/or ridicule. Thanks to the #MeToo movement, more light has been shed on this, and those guilty, held accountable. But not all. We must keep supporting women whose voices are not being heard, in populations that are under-served (this is putting it mildly).

Women didn’t get the right to vote until the 1920, but African-American women, particularly in Southern states, faced inexcusable barriers. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965–which prohibits racial discrimination in voting–that all Americans could vote without barriers. Yet, we still see issues today (again, I know I’m putting it mildly).

In 2020, women still aren’t getting equal pay for working the same job as our male counterparts. As patients, oftentimes our symptoms go misdiagnosed as “anxiety”–a direct association with “hysteria”. As healthcare professionals, I’ve read several accounts of women in medical school, and during their intern, residency and fellowship years, who faced discrimination and unequal treatment compared to their male doctor counterparts.

I cannot speak to this in the world of nursing, because nursing has been historically a white woman dominated field. But I will say, just to have it out there, when I was applying to nursing school, (I already held a Bachelor of Science and had graduated magna cum laude) I was told by the admissions department at a major university “you should go wherever you get accepted because, no offense, you’re a white female.” Take that for what you will.

But I digress.

Nearly every group in this country has been marginalized, discriminated against, or has been a scapegoat for the dominant culture and race at one time or another. Natives, African-Americans, women; in the age of immigration in the 1800s, Italians, Jewish, Polish, and even Irish, were discriminated–of course to a lesser extent than the other peoples I’ve written about here. In the years of WWII, the Japanese of this country were horribly mistreated.

My Italian great-grandparents who came here faced terrible discrimination. They never spoke Italian to my grandparents out of fear they would speak English with an accent. They were ridiculed. They wanted them to be American. I am so disheartened by this. I wish I knew Italian because it had been passed on in the household as a part of our culture. But because of fear, discrimination, and assimilation, a part of my cultural identity was lost.

When we thought we’d targeted every marginalized group after women’s suffrage of the 1900s and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, in more recent years, we’ve seen hatred of the LGBTQIA population. So you see, in America, there’s always a group to hate, limit, and discriminate. And it needs to stop.

I feel I can criticize America because I am a part of her. I want her to be better. I want her to espouse her claims of “all men (people) are created equal” and “Liberty and Justice for All” and mean it. I want the hopes and dreams, the legacies of our fallen soldiers of the Revolutionary War to breath new life into a land where we are all truly free and equal. I want to rejoice in and be humbled by our beautiful amalgamation of cultures and creeds. Unless we’re of indigenous descent, we’re all immigrants. It’s what makes us unique, inclusive, and resilient.

We can never forget our raw, brutal past. Nor should we. It’s a history we must all acknowledge, and about which we must learn the unbiased truth. We are a free nation with far better liberties than others out there. For that, I am grateful. Change never happens overnight, and we’ve come a long way. But we’ve still a long way to go (Robert Frost’s “and miles to go before I sleep” comes to mind…).

I apologize if I have not mentioned a certain population here. It wasn’t intentionally done. Reach out to me. Teach me. I want to learn. I want to support you.

In the end, listen. We are not above learning and being corrected for our biased history. Learn, be an ally, and let’s all work together to bring this country to where it needs to be.

As our motto has been at the hospital during COVID-19: Together as One.

Let’s do that, America.

Thoughts on Humanity IV

Alas, here we are again, albeit a bit of a gap between the last post and this one, but nonetheless, here. I wish I was posting about something better. I wish I was writing, thinking, perseverating about anything but this. But I can’t. Society won’t let me. So here we go. Again.

WEAR THE DAMN MASK. I just can’t with people anymore. I just can’t. I can’t with the politics in this country, and I can’t with the bipartisan bullshit. They always have to make things political. And this isn’t one of those things.

WEAR THE DAMN MASK. If I can wear a mask for 15 hours at work, YOU can wear a mask for 20 minutes at the grocery store.

WEAR THE DAMN MASK. I’m not religious, but we’re gonna go there. If Jesus washed the feet of the homeless, you can wear a mask for 5 minutes while pumping gas. I mean, for Christ’s sake! What is it with you people? Jesus apparently died on the cross for you, and you can’t even be selfless enough to wear a damn mask while picking out tomatoes?! Get it together and stop being such stupid hypocrites. (This isn’t for all Bible acolytes, obviously. Just the ones who are protesting the mask and twisting the “word of God” to mean what they want it to mean…).

WEAR THE DAMN MASK. Because it’s not about you. It was never about you. It’s about others, and protecting others. It’s about selflessness and community. And as a country, we’re failing this very simple lesson. Tremendously. Get your head out of your ass, get off your high horse and have a little humility.

WEAR THE DAMN MASK. Because as a nurse, I’m still counting on you, person in the community. We are still in the throes of the first wave, and you think this is over? We’re not even close to the second wave! Protect ME. Protect our healthcare system from becoming overburdened. Again. The gods know I’m doing my damnedest to protect YOU.

WEAR THE DAMN MASK. Because it’s the right thing to do. This is NOT political. This is SCIENCE. This is MORALITY. This is PRINCIPLE. Have a little. It’ll do you good.

WEAR THE DAMN MASK. This isn’t about taking away your rights. It never was. But the government, both local and federal, are cracking down because they have to. You people made them because you were too stupid, too haughty, too self righteous. And now look where your hubris has gotten us. Surges, surges everywhere. And soon, no more ICU beds. Again.

WEAR THE DAMN MASK. Because this is way too soon for us to be repeating history. And yet, here we are.¬†But in the end, my friend, if you’re still reading this, perhaps this is a way the Earth will thin the herd. Sad and harsh, but true. Social Darwinism at its finest, brought to you by anti-mask people.

But the sad part is, it won’t be the idiot refusing to wear the mask who gets COVID and dies. It’ll be the poor grandma they coughed on–who WAS wearing a mask–at the super market; it’ll be the immuno-compromised 35 – year-old wearing a mask, taking their kid to the park; it’ll be the uncle with COPD wearing a mask, picking up take-out for his family.

Look, we’re all sick and tired of this shit. NO ONE can deny that. I’m sick and tired of it, too. Maybe more than most. I’m irritated. Clearly. But this is only made worse by people unwilling to cooperate. It makes my job harder than it already is. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. While all of you got “staycactions” over this, I’ve been in the throes of “business as usual but way worse” since all of this began. So just TRY to imagine how incensed I am over this. Just a little! Just TRY!!!!!

We all want to go about our lives and enjoy summer. I do get it. I promise, I do. I want nothing more than to go to the beach with friends, and head out to a restaurant and sit by the water without wearing a mask, without worrying I might give COVID to someone, without worrying I might contract it from someone. But I can’t.

I AM exposed to COVID at work and I will NOT put myself in a situation where I am unnecessarily around people right now. Obviously, I still have to go grocery shopping, but how do you think the people around me would feel if I wasn’t wearing a mask and was walking around Market Basket shouting “I work with COVIDS!!!!!!”? I doubt I’d make it outta that store unscathed.

I will not go out. I will not do it. Because I have principles. It would never sit right with me, sitting at a restaurant, not knowing whether or not I gave COVID to someone near me. As far as I know, I’m not positive, but I could be a carrier. Who knows?! The same is probably true for thousands of others going out to restaurants. Was the cocktail worth it? I certainly hope so.

But let me tell you: we won’t get to enjoy ANY summers if we’re dead.

Just keep remembering that. It’s an inconvenience at least, a sacrifice at most, and a price we must pay if we want to experience the sweet fruits of life on the other side of this horrible charade. Nothing worth having comes easily, and I think Life is worth it. It’s worth the hefty price of social distancing and mask-wearing. Just do it. You will thank yourself at the end of this for your humility and selflessness.

Stay strong. Stay focused. Be humble. Be principled. THINK SMART.

And WEAR THE DAMN MASK.