Wednesday, May 13, 2020

leaving part of my heart in NYC

I was going to have my last post be the final blurb on my blog as I prepare to leave, but my NYC family overwhelmed me today. Goodbyes are always hard, but even more so in this situation. They were asking me to my last minute if I was sure I didn't want to stay a bit longer. Day and night shift staff came in on their day off to bring food, help me surprise the unit, and to say goodbye. One friend wrote me a note thanking me and stating we will be lifelong friends. They brought doughnuts for breakfast and ordered lunch from a restaurant with the best chicken parm I have ever had!

Side note, guys you can't believe the happiness a can of Clorox wipes can bring a seasoned nurse managerπŸ˜‚. She had been saying the other day how she is now out and has been looking for some but unable to find any. This can was sent in a care package from Washington and I re-gifted it to her 😊.

I planned a special treat for the staff on this floor as I have spent most of my time here and wanted to thank them and encourage them. I arranged for a new friend from NYC to drive to New Jersey to Nothing Bundt Cakes, pick up my order, and bring them to the unit. The best part was that the owner donated additional cakes to what I had purchased, and the bakery boxes state "be sweet to each other."

I must say I am leaving a piece of my heart here with the NYC Jacobi PICU and NICU teams.I printed out and colored some of these pages to hang around the unit to leave them encouragement. The final picture is a gift given to me as I was leaving.

My last day.. getting ready to say goodbye to the Big Apple

                    Final day after 6 weeks here!

So thankful for the friends I have made and the things I have learned here. I spent many of my days on the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) along side nurses caring for patients up to 40 years old despite being pediatric nurses. They stepped out of their comfort zone and provided the best care they could to adult patients in need. As out of my element as I was, they were as well as they are used to caring for sick children, not adults with no family members nearby. The staff on this unit specifically, pediatric unit, and the neonatal intensive care unit deserve a shout out for their welcoming attitudes, willingness to help me, and patience with all my questions. I felt welcomed into their family. They looked out for me and the other travelers and treated us as if we were one of their own hospital nurses rather than outsiders.

You cannot see very clearly, but I wanted to encourage and motivate the team before leaving, so I took some time to color encouraging pictures and left them in the unit. The one I am holding states "we are better together" and the other states "good vibes." They don't want the travelers to leave as they are afraid there will be a surge and they will be drowning again. I reassured them I am only a phone call away and would come help them again if they needed help!

One of the local restaurants that I mentioned previously has offered free carry out lunch to all front line employees. One friend pictured below would drive anyone who wanted to go to the restaurant for lunch breaks as it was less than 5 minutes away.

Nurses showing off their new face shields sent straight from OH-IO complements of my mamma!

We have laughed and we have cried. Been happy and been sad. We have stood together to help one another. I have met amazing people and been welcomed into their lives. I will never forget this experience. I fly home tomorrow and will be quarantining myself before seeing my family. Can't wait to be home, see my family and my puppy, and start studying for my boards! Thank you all for your love, support, and encouragement. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Only a few more days to go - Week 6


I am filled with positive energy and optimism as I write this. I am seeing nurses and other hospital staff beginning to smile at one another and speak with energy again. Greetings on the phone now sound pleasant, things are improving here (and the sun has been shining a bit more as well). Days are getting longer (good for me as it means I don't have to walk to and from work in the dark anymore).

There are still codes and rapid responses called overhead but now I can count on one hand the number of times per day it occurs (most days) rather than the number of times in an hour. The bins of personal protective equipment (gloves and gowns) are full 99% of the time rather than empty! Rooms are empty and not immediately filled up!!

On the downside, many staff, especially nurses are experiencing post traumatic stress disorder symptoms and will need many prayers moving forward. It is hard to see anyone die, let alone someone young and otherwise healthy. I have had a few conversations with nurses who shared that they can't sleep, they keep reliving the bad times seeing them over and over.

As things begin to become more normal here in the hospital, staff continue to wear all kinds of PPE as we never know when a patient will be admitted as COVID pending or COVID positive. The hospital is no longer only COVID as it was when I arrived, and they are trying to make some floors be all COVID negative or "clean floors." This has not yet been accomplished, but with the number of admissions trending down, there is hope that this can happen.

Despite all the donations, staff here are still in need of things and I want to say a huge thank you to a group of ladies from across the country (especially OHIO) who do not even know me, but sent a package of scrub hats! There are still nurses wearing bandannas to work to cover their hair because they cannot get scrub hats. It is backed up online at most places and could takes weeks to get a hat. I was able to share hats with many staff. They were blown away the someone would send gifts/donations for them. So thank you!! Also, these hats were prayed over and blessed and as I shared the ntoes and verses with the women receiving the hats, many had tears in their eyes. Two verses included were, Jeremiah 29:11 (one I have always clung to) and Psalm 18:2 (I have relied on during this time). I have included pictures with NYC native nurses who received their first scrub hat from those sent to me. You cant see them smile, but they were. I have even given the one off my head to a night/evening member.

Other good moments included, arriving at the hotel after working on Mother's day to find that they were passing out single roses to all the nurses. Also, water is hard to find here, ridiculously hard to find somewhere to fill a water bottle, and the hotel has been providing us water bottles at the front desk free of charge. You cant even imagine how thirsty I was last night when arriving at the hotel, (I think I took 3 bottles and drank 2 of them immediately).

As life begins to move past this moment in history, I wonder what they will call this time. There are bits of the twin towers and plaques all over the city.. a memorial in the hospital, a memorial at my hotel, a plaque on the outside of a hospital I pass on my way home. What stands out to me the most during these times are the terms "We stand together" and "We will never forget." I can't help but wonder, will NYC post memorials of this time? Will they talk about how we stood together, while apart? We saw many changes after 9/11 and I wonder how will life change moving forward?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The end is in sight

As I contemplated what to share in this post and what to title the post, I googled "the end is in sight" and clicked on images. Some were funny, some serious, but none seemed to fit what I was looking for. I have good news for you all, especially for my family! I have 8 working days left here- 4 days this week and 4 days next week. I am alive. I am healthy. I am supported and loved. I bought a color by number coloring book on Amazon to help me de-stress while I am here. When off work, I am stuck at the hotel. I was studying, but since I graduated with my Masters today, I think I can lay off on the studying a bit for now until I am ready to study for my national certification test. 😁

The end is in sight for me here and also for all of you who are quarantined or under a shelter in place/stay at home order. I consider the future with great trepidation as I have seen, heard, and experienced unspeakable things here in NYC during this crisis. Things I cannot even begin to explain. I am not called to live in fear, so I am trying not to be fearful as the world begins to open back up and people begin to come out of their homes, but deep down that is what I am feeling if I am really honest. Fear is crippling, thus as I attempt to re-frame my thoughts, the word cautious begins to fill my mind.

 I have been a nurse for almost 6 years and I could not have ever imagined the state of things here in NYC. No one could have prepared me for what it is like here. It was a real life nightmare. I have been trained at some of the biggest, best hospitals that our country has to offer, and I have also spent time in some of the smaller, not so top of the line hospitals. Believe me when I say could never have imagined running out of IV pumps or feeding pumps (I was only thinking about the news and ventilators and beds), adult diapers, incentive spirometers, pillows, or washcloths. I could never have imagined a hospital environment of complete chaos with people in stretchers on the units and no one knew who they were or where they came from. Hospitals are typically extremely structured and at least labeled as organized chaos. I have never had to wait until 8am or after to get my assigned patients (because no one knows who will show up to work and how much relief staff they will get each morning/night) and needed to then go check that they were actually alive and breathing. I have never seen doctors refusing to enter patient rooms, or respiratory therapist who will not enter rooms to administer nebulized medications. I have never seen nurses or other medical personnel wear so many layers of protective equipment and still have fear in their eyes. I cannot explain the feelings that washed over me each morning as I walked to the hospital and walked past 4 refrigerated semi trucks filled with bodies. Every morning and evening, this is what I passed.

The bright side is that things are slowing down here! I have had empty rooms the last few days! In regards to the bodies, they are being brought into the hospital to be processed and we are now down to 3 refrigerator semis.

This virus is all that the world has been talking about and focusing on. Day in and day out, this is all I see on facebook, instagram, and TV. I don't have any answers and this virus has me baffled. The typical things we (medical professionals) do don't work. We have been doing all we can for these patients and they continue to die right before our eyes. Friends, as you begin to live your lives, please continue to say a prayer for your fellow Americans in NYC and elsewhere who will continue to watch as their friends and family die. Please take time to image what I have been through and shared with you. This is not fake news. This is real life and people are dying. As we begin to move forward again, please treat one another with compassion, patience, and caring. Not everyone feels the way you do and that is okay! God is still in control! Friends, I am surviving because of your love, prayers, encouragement, and support. Thank you all so very much!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Hands and Feet of Jesus - Covid 19 Warrior

Week four

Week four brought some changes. My walk to and from work buddy got moved from my hotel to a different hotel. We have been walking the 20 minutes to and from work on the days we both work. We made a routine of stopping to pray before we get to the hospital to begin our shift. On the bright side, I got some buttons in a package from my mom and was able to sew them onto the headband to protect my ears. I also ordered a scrub hat from Amazon (and it came surprisingly quickly) along with the 2 scrub hats I received from my friend's donations (one was pictured in a previous post) and I was able to sew buttons onto those hats as well to keep pressure off my ears.

I had a talk with a friend last night, and she shared how my story has affected her. She said to me "Laura you are literally being the hands and feet of Jesus." This really stopped me in my tracks as I reflected on this and our conversation. I hope that the nurses and patients I come into contact with are uplifted by my reflection of Christ. In rooms with patients who have no family at their side while they are scared and sick, I can be there and love and encourage them.

I had to walk to the pharmacy today as I haven't been inside a store for a few weeks and haven't been to a pharmacy since getting to New York. Below is a photo of the pharmacy as I walked up. There was a line outside the store for people who needed to go to the pharmacy and then another line for people who just wanted to shop at CVS. They have the whole pharmacy area completely taped off and wipe down everything including the credit card machine after each person. 

Some other good news from the front lines....the last few days I have worked there have been open beds on some units! I'm not saying its all better here, but the last few days the ER has been overstaffed with nurses! It is the small things, I will take it! 

Also, a giant care package came from Washington (the hometown of the nurse shown above). It had 250 mini bottles of hand sanitizer, clorox wipes, pens, safety pins, ear savers, cloth masks, and best of all cookies!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Overwhelmed beyond words - week 3

After a rough end to last week, I was blown away by week 3. So many people giving all at once, I have no words to even describe the feelings. I will show pictures and allow you to imagine the feelings after the situation described in my last post. This was me trying to be resilient and get out of bed. I went for a walk to get some fresh air and clear my head on my day off. Who says you can't color coordinate during a pandemic? πŸ˜€

A local restaurant has been providing to go meals to first responders. It was delicious and made my day! Although I probably ate it in about 5 minutes (my grandma always scolds me for eating so fast, my only defense, I'm a nurse, I have to)

My new travel nurse friend received mailed care packages from her hometown and shared a srcrub hat with me! The green fabric says "hugs for heroes." We have been wearing disposable hair covers all day long, so now I can wear this under the disposable one for another layer of protection.

Someone came around the floor passing out face wash and compression socks to staff. Same day, all staff was given a ticket to go redeem for a bag from Red Cross. This bag was loaded with supplies including toothpaste, deodorant, food, coffee, toilet paper, and energy drinks.

A family member reached out to me and thanked me for coming to NYC. She insisted on buying my dinner of my choice and having it delivered to my hotel when I got home from work Monday night. She even ordered more than what I requested because she thought I might like it and should have choices. Also she sent all the drinks because I told her drinks are hard to of all she ordered bubble tea! 😍

Last night, I received a package from my mom. It included face shields for me and other first responders!!! Her classmate from high school had paid for some and mom shipped them up! Below is one that I found on a unit last week and snagged. It is elastic stapled to the plastic. Below is a picture of a night shift travel nurse living here at my hotel who has not had a face shield. She was ecstatic to receive one and loved how it fit. Stated it provided so much more protection. When I tried one on I loved it as well, so much space for my glasses. It was wasn't squishing against my face. Thanks mom, your classmate, and the local friend making these! Once I pass out some more I will post more pictures!
This nurse also has not had any cloth masks and I was able to give her one that my boyfriend's family made and sent with me. She loved the colors and said she wanted to wear them together to match. 😎

These donated face shields are going like candy! Gave away all the ones I had today and didn't realize I gave my own away. Good thing I have a few at the hotel that didn't fit in my bag today.