After another week of sitting in my house, I decided to help.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had mantras that get me through tough times. They typically come from the best storytellers. Think Happy thoughts? Peter Pan. Courage, Dear Heart? C.S. Lewis.
And when times are tough, I’ll deploy one of them as a way to cope, as a way to fight. I’ve learned so much in my life when it comes to tough times. OCD, losing loved ones, natural disasters, autoimmune disease, divorce... I have always continued to keep standing strong on my own two feet. When I was 13, a close friend of ours died in a car accident when she was 16. I went to the hospital and got to hold her hand. I told myself that day, “I'm going to be a nurse.”
When COVID-19 hit, I felt I really had something to give.
I’m about to go on to my first COVID unit to work when some guidance comes out that Mast Cell, an autoimmune disorder, is one of the things that puts you at high risk to not survive this novel virus.
I was diagnosed with Mast in my ‘30s after almost 15 years of suffering with symptoms and seeing a slew of doctors.
I remember a coworker looked at me and she said, “Go. Just walk away. This is not where you belong. With your autoimmune stuff. You don't belong here.” So, I walked away. And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’d imagine it’s like what a soldier would feel like leaving his friends on a battlefield.
I went home and cried in my garage. My whole life, I’ve wanted to help people. And here I am with the skills, talent, and I’m stuck in my garage while my friends and co-workers are risking their lives to help others.
Talk about feeling helpless.
I have two kids who quarantined away from me with my ex-husband as well as my parents. So, now I’m a nurse who can’t work and a mom who can’t even be a mom who complains about being stuck in quarantine with their noisy kids! A friend of mine got sick, too.
After another week of sitting in my house, I decided to help. My nurses started texting each other, calling each other about how the protective masks after 12-14 hours started cutting into their ears. I thought about an easy solution: make a headband with a button. That way, my nurses could cover their ears and hook the mask on the button of the head band.
I made the first couple, sent them to my friends and posted them on social media. Then friends started sending me money to make more! I started cutting up my dresses to make headbands. Then, I posted on Facebook and a bunch of friends that aren't in the medical world wanted to help. We brought them to different hospitals. I even gave them out to people like the workers at Walmart, anybody that was in the front line that just needed them.
I think we made and gave out more than 1,000.
We called it, “Save the ears!”
Leaving the ICU that day felt like a distant memory. I suppose all I really need in life is a way to contribute.
I started to be needed at work again because we were getting more patients. So, I was back in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, which is my speciality.
I finally got to see my kids after 18 days. A dear friend of mine who was sick got better and things were looking up.
One day, when I was leaving work, they said when I came back the next day I wasn’t going to have the same assignment. They said I would be working with a COVID-19 positive child. I knew I was vulnerable because of the autoimmune and all that, but it didn’t matter.
Life is too short to live in fear and I ended up caring for the child. They kept sharing her story on the news, as she was one of the first children in Louisiana diagnosed.
Was I scared? Terrified.
I just kept my mantra going when I felt scared.
Courage, Dear Heart
Jessy Shaw, RN