We're Still Human

Jan 03, 2018

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Dear World,

I needed to not feel like a robot.

When COVID-19 began, it seemed at times as if we had to fly by the seat of our pants. Things changed daily. The disease presents similar to things we are used to treating but it's not exact and it doesn't always follow the same course. This made it hard to predict individual outcomes and that's scary.

Because of this, it seemed that we changed how we acted in the hospital. Not even towards the patients, but towards each other. I've been a nurse for a little over 6 years. Most of my family members are nurses. I guess you can say it's the family business, but we all have agreed that COVID-19 is different than anything we've encountered.

And the thing I realized most?

We started acting robotic.

I'm from Mississippi, and here southern hospitality is a real thing, not just in the movies. Checking on each other, whether it's a patient or a coworker, is an everyday part of life. A nod of the head, a little smile, "how are y'all?" is an extension of who I am.

COVID-19 changed everything, from how often we wore masks, gowns, and face shields to how we directly cared for patients. It seemed to take forever to put these items on each time you would have to go interact with a patient. Couple that with the uncertainty of their effectiveness, it was unnerving. We would get laser focused on every step of every task in hopes to safely make it home to our families. So focused and nervous that we're gonna forget something, except we forgot about each other.

We stopped even making eye contact with each other as we passed in the halls as to not distract each other from the task at hand. It was obvious people felt overwhelmed, nervous, and unsure.

Now that things are calmer, I wonder a lot about how we'll get our humanity back. I have always been a germaphobe, but I miss hugs and handshakes. And I hope I can hug my people again--my patients, my co-workers, my family.

I think back during the height of it, I needed to not feel like a robot. One particular night at work I encountered a lady who wasn't doing well. She needed to be upgraded to the intensive care unit if she wanted to have a chance at survival. However, we needed to see if she even wanted to be put on a ventilator or if she wanted to ride it out like she was. Basically, with COVID-19, this may be the last step for some people and some folks might be done fighting their fight. Which I can respect, because that's their choice.

I set aside my own fear with all my protective equipment on (all the while thinking about my pregnant wife with our twin girls who are due in a couple of months) and just held her hand. She still wanted to fight. Truth is, I needed this interaction just as much as her. More, maybe. I needed to feel human. I wanted her to feel human. I'll never forget her!

We're Still Human
William Quinn