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I work as an ambulance paramedic. Nowadays, on every call that meets the criteria for COVID-19, my colleagues and I wear masks, gloves, eye shields and gowns. We stand six feet away from our patients as we interrogate them about the presence of fever, cough, body aches, or breathing problems.
Our overall 9-1-1 volume is down, as people stay home instead of driving drunk, as they decide to stay away from hospitals, as most of them (minus the over-advertised outliers) shelter in place. But I notice more secondary symptoms: domestic abuse, assault, anxiety, mental illness, loss of sobriety.
I got home this morning after my third 24-hour shift this week covering labor and delivery and newborns for our family medicine service, tired from only three to four hours of sleep. I put on my face mask in the car, came through the front door, where my husband had left a thermos of coffee, ignored the whines of our puppy who wanted to greet me, and went directly to our bedroom, where I have been self-isolating at home for six days now.
I had changed out of my scrubs at the hospital, but I now threw all my clothes
There were happy tears in the clinic that day. Our patient, Jane Doe, was finally approved to take the new cystic fibrosis medication. As the air went in through her nose, the stark realization set in that she had never until this point been able to take a truly deep breath.
But just when she thought her days of lung problems were behind her, a public health emergency for COVID-19 was declared.
Life turned upside down in a matter of days. On March 13, the governor closed schools. My husband and I met friends for dinner that night. We were nervous and opened the restaurant’s door with a Lysol wipe and carried hand sanitizer inside. On March 16, restaurants and gyms shut down. It was my son’s 15th birthday and he almost cried when I didn’t let him go to a friend’s house. We’d promised him dinner at a steakhouse. Instead, we got takeout, and he was too sad to eat cake.
My mom is ninety-six years old. She lives in a wonderful assisted living facility, and is mostly blind and incontinent. She has lost most of her motor skills, uses a wheelchair and suffers from dementia.
Mom was once as sharp as a tack and a force to be reckoned with. Despite her dementia, she is still that. Each day in my heart, I bow down to the wonderful aides who treat her with infinite patience, humor and gentle kindness.
Two nights ago I received an email telling all residents and families that four residents had tested positive for COVID-19.