December 17th, 2020
So much has happened this year that I’m already in tears thinking about how to convey the gravity of the Year of the Nurse: 2020 on me, on my family, on my colleagues, neighbors, and friends. It has been vicious, violent, and wicked. Scientists around the world immediately began working toward a solution for a dangerous and unknown problem. All we knew was that it was a respiratory disease killing all types of people at an alarming rate. Coronavirus was showing no mercy.
We settled into a new normal. The “two weeks to slow the spread” turned into a month, six weeks. The infection rates were unfathomable. I’m reusing masks, avoiding my family, and not going anywhere. As an ER nurse, I saw some really, really scary situations. People suffocating in their own lungs. Suffocating. To the point where a setting of 100% FiO2 on a ventilator wasn’t enough to keep them perfused. We began being satisfied with 80% SpO2.
April, May, June, July…the summer just disappeared. I worked and worked and worked. Our regular patient population came back in and suddenly we were busting at the seams. There wasn’t time to pause and reflect. There wasn’t enough mental energy to soak in how much death we were seeing. If I did that every day, I wouldn’t make it through the shift. It takes mental fortitude to do what we are doing. Compartmentalization became the key for survival.
It was only getting worse. And worse. And worse. Healthcare workers dying of the disease they were trying to save people from, people letting their guards down, people thinking it was over. I’m guilty of it, too. This virus now so rampant that critical care became the baseline at which we operate. Humanity is suffering. And there is no right answer. People are losing their jobs, going hungry, and dying at insufferable rates. There is no right answer.
Adding to the hell-fire are a group of insolent people claiming that this is a “plan”demic, that masks don’t help, that the government is trying to control us, etc. It is sickening. You can truly see how awful a person’s soul is by how they have acted during this pandemic. All we want to do is save your life and keep you safe. You cry about your “freedom” as I’m loading yet another dead body into a freezer truck. You claim that a mask doesn’t work, refuse to wear one, and continue to add fuel to the fire. Those people are the reason why this pandemic is as bad as it is right now.
All of the sorrow, the horror, the horror, the horror. The average person cannot fathom what critical care nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists are going through. We are learning as we go, collecting stress and anxiety along the way. I wouldn’t wish the weight of coronavirus on anyone. The weight of having to separate family members at the door, the weight of using FaceTime to help loved ones say goodbye before a patient’s inevitable death, the weight of choosing who gets the next ventilator, knowing they probably won’t survive that either.
And then, late November hits and the Pfizer trial announces an mRNA vaccine with a 95% efficacy and safety rating. Are. You. Kidding. Me. The entire science community, elated with joy, began inquiring about how to get their hands on it. I have been dreaming of this vaccine for 9 months. I have been crying tears of joy with each new step toward obtaining that precious herd immunity.
This vaccine means that I might be able to spend Christmas with my family next year. I might be able to go on a proper honeymoon (and maybe redo my ruined wedding) . I might be able to see my favorite band in concert.
This vaccine, simply put, is the saving grace we all needed. As with everything, there are those that choose a YouTube education over the truth. I read every word of the 84 page Sponsor Briefing Document that Moderna presented to the FDA. I read every word of Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine. I am educated enough to understand every word of these powerful studies. I am also subscribed to many medical and nursing journals. There is a sea of information out there, and I am choosing science and truth. Those that cannot make it through those articles should not have the audacity to argue with us professionals. Those types of people are unstable and dangerous.
2020 amplified the problems that the United States continues to face. 2020 also brought out a lot of beauty, communities coming together, and a new type of creativity. I urge anyone reading this to have the strength to continue on, ask questions, follow government guidelines, and ignore the anti-maskers and “plan”demic domestic terrorists. They are not worth your breath.
Nurses are resilient, powerful, and autonomous. Let’s come together in 2021 and finally beat this thing!
Skyanne, BSN, RN