Saying Goodbye through the Loving Hands of a Nurse

Because of COVID-19, the rec center in Dad’s retirement community was closed. Determined to continue exercising, my vigorous 89-year-old father went for a walk. We don’t know what happened, but passers-by found him on the ground. Paramedics were called; flat-line ECG. He was resuscitated and placed on a ventilator. Unfortunately, his brain appeared damaged.

Despite the emerging pandemic, my sister and I traveled to Arizona. We sat by his side and held his hand.

Then, the rules changed: No visitors allowed.

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Filling the Unusual Silence with Purposeful Rustling

“Did they finally pull you out of the hospitals and clinics?” My father’s voice resonated through the receiver.

“Yeah,” I replied with my eyes fixed on my whirling ceiling fan. “I figured it was inevitable after the AAMC issued its recommendation for students to be pulled from direct patient care, given the uncertainties surrounding the supply of PPE and the potential harms of having more people than necessary in clinical environments.” My father knew those abbreviations referred to the Association of American Medical Colleges, which governs the education of medical students, and to personal protective equipment, like surgical masks and

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Dying 101

People don’t die like they do in the movies–alive one minute, saying something profound, and dead the next. There is a way the body is programed to die. Most of us don’t think about that, don’t know about it, and generally don’t want to know about it. We live in a death-denying society.

But as a nurse, I have spent most of my life talking about death, and now more than ever I want to explain the normal way the body dies.  

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New Normal

The fear is palpable as I walk through the near-empty maze-like hallways of the hospital. Having no visitors makes things eerily quiet. It is the same as the quiet throughout my small city–in empty shopping center parking lots, down neighborhood roads.

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Helpless and Hopeless

Even as a little girl, I needed a routine to keep me focused and sane. Now, I like knowing that from 9 a.m. to noon, I will be working at the university with my writing students; that after I get home, I will either read or take a nap; that I might take a before-dinner walk or muster my energy to clean the bathroom or kitchen; that I will watch the news—news that does not inundate me with warnings and dire statistics—and then challenge myself on Jeopardy; and that I will end the day with a book, feeling satisfied and comfortable.  
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An Editor’s Invitation: COVID-19

April’s More Voices theme is COVID-19.

What else could it be?

I hope that you’ll take a few moments to send us a short first-person piece on how COVID-19, a term that was utterly foreign to us just a few weeks ago, has impacted you.
Here’s how it’s changed my workplace: As of yesterday, my hospital in the Bronx had about 500 patients admitted with the COVID-19 diagnosis. Over sixty of those were in the ICU.
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