It’s Thanksgiving Day, 2020. Here is what’s on my mind:
I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the past few weeks and months living and working through the COVID-19 global pandemic. This public health crisis has brought forth a lot of change, for good and for bad – I find myself repeating this has been a transformative year, but more on that later. While there is much to be thankful for, including my health and the health of my loved ones, job security, a roof over my head and food in the fridge, I am not one to ignore the emotional pain and grief I’ve endured this year.
I take no shame in fully engrossing myself in my emotions. I promised myself long ago that I would never feel embarrassed for having or displaying my feelings, which, in the past few months, has manifested itself as sobbing at work, unapologetically. I sobbed as residents were discharged following positive COVID-19 test results, uncertain if or when I’d ever see them again. I sobbed as the positive cases grew, first it was 2, then 4, then 7, 13, 19, then it was 100% of residents. Finally there were moments of tears of joy when residents started to recover and were moved off the COVID unit.
Nothing has been harder than holding the hands of my dying Hospice patient, only to learn she passed alone 2 hours later. I felt hopelessness and fear watching a 31 year old receive CPR, to hear time of death called, then to see her lifeless body alone in her room. The tears have slowed down overall, but they visit me when someone asks how I’m doing or how work has been. Or now, when I spend intentional time thinking about the patients, the friendships, I’ve lost.
At this point, I’ve lost 13 patients, a majority of whom I’ve known and cared for since the first day of my career as a nursing home physical therapist. These are people who died unnecessarily at the negligence of others, my heart will always hurt for them. In an effort to honor them, I’ve kept a running list of their names alongside fond memories or stories I’ve shared with these special people.
- Cynthia showed me the importance of gratitude and appreciation for those who help others
- Beverly taught me you’re never too old to play video games, especially until 3AM
- Don showed me a few words was enough to let your needs be known
- Lupe taught me the time is always right for a cup of coffee and a cookie, especially at the end of a PT session
- Ed showed me how my words impact outcome and patient trust
- Lee taught me the importance of knowing what you want and standing your ground – “but I don’t wanna” and “I’m lazy”
- Arden taught me the only correct answer to the question “how are you?” is “finer than frog fur”
- Richard showed me strong men cry
- Betty taught me you’re never too old to appreciate a cute pair of shoes
- Jane taught me the key to being simply the best grandma was to rest as often as possible
- Rick taught me no matter how hard you try, the worst of circumstances can fall on to the best of people
I hope I don’t have to add many more names and memories to this list, but it is likely the number will grow. COVID cases are rising, expecting to get worse as we head into the holiday and winter season. In conclusion, wear a mask, wash your hands, distances yourself from others when able, and treat others with kindness.
Until tomorrow, Meryn