#30MoreDays…. Buck Up and Be Creative

Trending on Twitter today is a reaction to the continued restrictions designed to keep people alive during a historic pandemic where a conservative estimate is that 100,000 Americans will die.  Some folks are seeing the big picture. Many are getting creative with their activities (dong on a Roomba for some mobile ring toss, anyone?). And then there is the group who acts like this is some sort of primitive torture.  Complaining about a month longer (which would be a miracle if it’s only another month), as if they’d been told that someone is going to come along and remove their lip filler and Botox with a toothpick.  Really?  This is the roughest thing you’ve ever dealt with? If so, you have led a charmed friggin’ life.  If you are seriously struggling with your mental health because of this, please call/text a crisis hotline.  You can get through this.  For some, this will be very difficult to get through. But it’s not impossible. It’s not life-threatening (going out is life-threatening).

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Think about the folks who have fought in wars… THAT is sacrifice.  Think about the folks who are struggling with the basics (rent, food).  Watching TV or playing video games isn’t a hardship. Think about the families of those who are dying- and those folks who must die alone because family can’t go in to see them, for their own safety.   This is a huge, crazy period of time- and we’re fortunate here in the States to not have been through this type of hardship… I think of the Blitz (London, WWII)… every night for  11 weeks they were bombed.  Many bodies were never found. That is terrifying.  For those who have lost jobs because of this, hang in there. This isn’t forever, and a huge part of the country is going through the same thing. You are not alone.  And you have friends.  People care.

Yeah, it’s hard to have your life upended.  Sure- it’s hard not to see people when you want to. It’s VERY hard to not know when you’ll get a paycheck again… Of course it’s a bummer that so much has been cancelled.  Funerals are even less convenient- and  you can’t watch your own.   The vast majority of the country is going to be OK, but nobody knows who will get sick. There is no group of people who are immune to this. There was a  baby under a year old who died of COVID-19 this last week, in the Chicago area.  Other teens and young adults have died from COVID-19… because they were exposed. You can only get exposed if you are around someone who has it (who may not have symptoms), or don’t wash your hands after touching contaminated surfaces or handling packages/ deliveries you get at home- and those are uncommon, but the virus lives on surfaces for hours to days.  NOT staying home is the reason that we blew past China’s numbers of infected in a couple of weeks.  WE DID THIS TO OURSELVES by being selfish and short-sighted. We blew past Italy- and we SAW what was happening there. The apathy from the head of the US government doesn’t help.  But we can be as mad as we want later- right now we have to get through this.

People want to “do something” to be entertained.  Entertain your own self.   Get creative. That dong on the Roomba is hilarious.  Do a gratitude journal- it really does give perspective on things. Organize your cabinets. Weed through your clothes for a bag to donate to a thrift store or shelter.  Find the lids to your food storage containers.  Make dog toys out of socks that got divorced in the clothes dryer.  Post videos or photos of your ideas- and cheer someone else up.  It’s still safe to walk outside and get a bit of fresh air in many areas- just avoid crowds, and stay at least 6 feet apart from other people. We aren’t in jail.  We’re in protective custody… with privileges. And better food. And the shower is safe.

Consider the folks in countries without TV, internet, access to cell phones, etc.  Are the people in the Spoiled States of America really suffering that much? Try being sick on a woven grass mat in a hut with no real help around. Being in your climate controlled home is hardly suffering.

Come up with some fun ways to pass time. Call your grandma. Put up encouraging signs in your window.  Make a dartboard out of a photo (or drawing, if so inclined) of the virus cell.  Keep a journal about what it’s like, and how you feel about all of this.  DONATE BLOOD- the blood drives have been cancelled, so accident and emergency surgery patients are going to be dying from no available blood transfusions.  If you know someone who died, let the rest of us know how amazing they were.  Remember the REAL victims.

And consider this. There are millions of people in the US alone who are housebound because of disability- only leaving home (if they’re lucky enough to still get in a car) to see a doctor.  I’ve been disabled (an RN) since 2004, and the last 3 1/2 years I have been stuck inside except to take out the trash or get the mail. If I am in temperatures over 63 degrees, I run the risk of losing consciousness.  And I’m fortunate– I can still live alone. It’s hard, and it hurts (no pain free days since the mid-90s), but I see my home as my bubble, and make it my own.  My dog keeps me company.  My phone doesn’t ring very often. I see delivery folks briefly.  There are a few folks who stop by when they can, but it can be months between times I see people I have known for any length of time. Otherwise, I’ve been on lockdown since 2016, and from 2004-2016 could only leave at night (cooler) and/or with an ice vest, for brief periods of time a couple of times a month. For all of us who find these ‘restrictions’ just another month, this is our normal.  We get through it. We find ways to stay engaged in life even without seeing anybody for weeks.  It was hard initially, but there are a LOT of worse scenarios. I was complaining about being physically limited, and then got acute promyelocytic leukemia…. home sounded really good after that. I nearly died. Had about a week left, tops.  Fifty doses of arsenic trioxide, and other chemo, and I’m considered cured- not just in remission.  Don’t take things for granted.  Bottom line- if I can do this for years, you can do it for as long as YOU need to.  I want to be working so much during this- it’s a nurse thing. People are suffering. They need the rest of us to keep the infected numbers down, so they can get the care they need.

How about planning a “Turned Loose” party when this is over?  Think of the things and people you’ve missed having lunch or dinner with, and figure out how to celebrate when this is over.  Think about the good times ahead- alive!  Make some short term goals, and some long term goals.  Figure out how to achieve them.  Write a book?  Read a book? Take up a new hobby (even drawing can be relaxing).  You can find a lot of stuff online to have shipped.  If you’re concerned about exposure from delivered items, let them sit in the garage or in another larger empty box for a few days, and you can use zip bags for protecting your hands while opening the box.  Wash your hands consistently and often.

If you really want to do something, save the lives of first responders (fire, police, EMTs, paramedics, ambulance drivers), doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, hospital housekeepers, and the rest of the folks who are literally in the faces of the folks who will die, putting their lives on the line every single day.

Stay home for them. Stay home for your family. For your friend who had cancer. For your healthy friends. For your kids. For your neighbors. For yourself… 

Time Buffers… It Does Not Heal All Wounds

Four years ago this morning, my dad called me at around 8:00 a.m.  He knew I generally slept until noon (up all night), so I knew it was something different and serious before I answered the phone.  He told me he couldn’t walk right, and asked if I could come to the house and see what I thought (have been an RN since 1985, though disabled for the last 15 years- I keep up with medical stuff by keeping myself alive).  I asked him if I had time for a shower, anticipating we’d be going to the ER, and he said yes, but don’t take too long. Dad had been having back issues and some weird symptoms on and off since the November prior to March 3, 2016.  He needed a better work-up, and at this point, the ER was our best bet.

I took my shower and packed my meds/insulin figuring that I’d be away from home for hours.  Then I drove to the house.  I wasn’t really prepared for what I saw.  Dad stood up when I came down the hallway after letting myself in with the garage door opener I kept for checking his house when he was on vacations.  Dad was standing next to the bed, with ‘balance’ that looked like someone trying to stand on an inner tube in a pool.   He had no clue where his body was in space (proprioception problem).  I told him to sit down, and I’d get what he needed.  First order of business was breakfast, even though I suggested he wait because of any lab tests  that might be done, but if I didn’t feed him, he wasn’t going to the hospital.  OK… food first.  I don’t even remember what I got for him. I do know it was in a bowl, and doubt I made oatmeal, so likely cold cereal.

His lady friend (not going into detail about her, as she was a self-serving “care taker” who was handy on occasion) came over and got some of his belongings together to take in case he was admitted.  I wasn’t going to take him home in his condition, so started getting my speech ready for that conversation with the ER doc.   I got his electric shaver and warm washcloth, as well as his toothbrush- he wasn’t going anywhere ungroomed.  Then I told him I was calling 911, since I knew there was no way to get him in and out of the car safely with what I saw of his balance issues.   He didn’t argue.  I knew he was scared.

The ambulance took some time to get to the house, as his address was in the county (by one block), and the station responsible for sending emergency help was several miles away.  They came in and got him loaded up, and I told them in no uncertain terms that we were to go to a specific hospital that wasn’t the closest.  His vital signs were fine, and he was not in respiratory, cardiac, or any other distress physically.  They agreed.  I followed in my car (and lady friend took her car).

I told the folks at the ER that I needed to be back with dad, since he tended to downplay things to strangers.  They needed to know about the months of erratic symptoms.  They also needed to know that dad would not do anything medically unless he could ask ME if it was legit.  He used to say he was getting a return on his investment in sending me to nursing school.  They let me back as soon as they had him gowned up.  He was terrified.

As with any ER, it takes time to sort through everything and get testing done.  We were there for at least 9 hours, in which time he had several tests done, including an MRI that almost didn’t happen because of dad’s claustrophobia.  He almost changed his wishes for a traditional casket burial because of claustrophobia.  They sedated him (a Benadryl made him loopy for a couple of days, so the stuff they gave him IV really made him blotto, which is what he needed so the MRI could happen).  They found some strange lesions on his spine- not what we were expecting.  There was talk of sending him home (alone), and I pitched a semi-dignified fit.  They said that the ER was for finding problems – and not necessarily to admit people. I told them of his living situation, my disability in not being able to care for him adequately when he couldn’t transfer safely, and the other safety issues in sending him home.  They did admit him, and he never saw his home of 40 years again.

I’ll never forget that day, or the 19 hours on April 3-4, 2016, just a month after he was admitted, and going a rehab facility that repeatedly blew off his complaints of abdominal pain.  On April 4, 2016,  he died after a diverticula that hadn’t been diagnosed ruptured and caused catastrophic infections in his abdomen, extending into his bladder and  filling it with gas.  He was a great dad- and I’m so fortunate to have ‘landed’ with him when I was adopted at 10 days old.  He is still missed daily, though it’s easier to remember the good and goofy stuff.  My mom died in 2003, and I couldn’t anticipate the devastation of losing my last parent, and the one who was constantly looking out for me and my best interests starting from that first day in 1963. I didn’t grow  up with siblings.  My mom did things in her own way to show her love, but dad was more open about it. We had a great relationship when I became an adult, and I could tell him anything.  When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate his work stress, or the ways he made sure that all vacations included things just for me along with general sight-seeing.  He’d go out of his way to make sure I got something special out of each trip.

I now live in his house (was also my home for 9 years as a teenager through nursing school), and I’m so thankful.  I have him, and my mom, in every room of this house, whether it’s some trinket or photo, or memories of things that we did here.  I couldn’t live anywhere else.  It’s home.  It’s my family in a house.  It’s what I have left.