March 3, 2020:
“How did we get here?” My mind wandering in disbelief as two men cough near by.
“COVID I will not panic, but you got my attention.” Then another person sneezes.
My name shows up on the computer screen indicating my meds are ready. Going to the window the distressed lady shouts out to me,
“Look at the spit all over my window. We have two Coronavirus patients in the ER and my family just called me and said don’t come home.”
Ruffled from her words, I was speechless catching sight of the spit running down the window. Quickly , I stepped back noting the saliva was on my side. Troubled by the VA employee’s demeanor, I gave my last name and last four as requested. With my prescription in hand, at full tilt, I disappeared down the corridor. I did not realize it, but I was holding my breath.
Moments earlier two patients wearing masks and looking clearly sick had their prescriptions denied. I could not hear why, but did watch the latter, a rugged looking guy, clearly sick pull off his mask and yell, “God Damn lady I am sick as shit .” Readjusting his mask he stomped off toward the emergency department.
Triggered by the situation, an uneasiness with respect to what else this employee may say to other patients overcame me. She was not appropriate. On the next day, March 3rd, I notified the VA Pharmacy Director of her actions. The director called me back over a period of five days with details as I was concerned if the patients in front of me could have had COVID.
The final call from the director came on March 9th reassuring me there was no positive COVID patients on my visit on March 3rd. He did say the VA had their first COVID patient on March sixth. He divulged also this staff member was a subcontractor due to the VA’s sluggish hiring process. In my experience, I know the VA Hospital have a lot to offer to the civilians if needed in all out emergent circumstances. It is critical that the military get their act together and it starts on the front lines.
Why did I react the way I did and did it matter? You tell me.
I had almost six weeks of preparation in place that put me in the driver’s seat to validate how and why I responded the way I did. No one likes being told they were exposed to COVID even if in an obscure manner. Here is what led me to my march madness and I am not talking basket ball either.
January 17, 2020: I was on vacation on Oahu attending the Chinese Celebration for the year of the rat. It was during this kickoff coincidently that I had my first alert to the Coronavirus(COVID). The news in Honolulu had confirmed a second person had died in China. The United States implemented screenings for symptoms at three airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Wuhan, China had already reported to The WHO ( World Health Organization ) unusual cases of pneumonia on December 31, 2019.
January 21, 2020: While still vacationing, I hear that the first case of COVID has been confirmed 15 minutes from where I live in Washington State. My inner radar started to alarm although this person is not too sick.
January 23, 2020: While on vacation, I met up with long time friends for a luau. They were getting ready to go on a cruise around the islands.
January 24, 2020: Checking in at the Honolulu airport to head home, I overhear discussion that Beijing cancels all large scale Lunar New Year festivities. Wuhan, China enforces a partial shutdown of folks in and out of their city.
January 27, 2020: On Facebook, a high school friend discusses that her son, a teacher, who is living in China has been put on mandatory lockdown for a massive nationwide effort to control the spread of COVID. Unfortunately, more people travel world wide during the long Chinese New Year break than any other holiday including Christmas. The travel ban causes many folks to get stuck in China due to these restrictions.
January 29, 2020: I contact my friends on Oahu about their cruise and if they are seeing any restrictions.I texted this worried: “Checking at airports for that virus…Hope they do not hold you up at the Honolulu airport…..”
“Everything is going great.”
Also on this day the White House announces the formation of a new task force to contain the threat of the coronavirus in the United States. I was becoming more alarmed and knew my gut was feeling something I did not like.
February 3, 2020: Chinese Foreign Ministry states the US government is overreacting. I am thinking to myself, “Are we reacting enough?”
February 4-11, 2020: Everyday the news is amplifying where COVID is attacking. Finally the World Health Organization names the coronavirus COVID-19.
February 14, 2020: A Chinese tourist dies in France and is the first to die in Europe.
February 28: 2020: A Kirkland, WA nursing home patient about 10 minutes from my own home is the first confirmed COVID case taken to Evergreen Hospital(EHMC). By March 2, 2020, EHMC has confirmed 14 cases and six deaths.
March 3, 2020 I head to the VA for a couple of doctor appointments. I really did not want to go, but really needed to go see a specialist I had waited awhile to go see. I ask myself,
“How did we get here when you are scared to go to the one place that is here to help?”
Being a nurse has made me who I am and it certainly is not scared of what the hospitals represent and the need for them to make us well as a people. I got a bit more than I bargained for.
As a side note since March 3rd, America is on a National Emergency. My youngest son who is a nurse in a small village in Uganda has me concerned on how he will get back home to the United States. For now, the area looks safer there, but when things get crazy and they will, he needs to get out of there and home. He will have to take a small plane two hours from where he is located to the Entebbe airport. This is where he will have to fly to Europe, the hot spot of the world right now with their COVID nightmare. From Europe, he will surely have to be on quarantine for 14 days probably in Atlanta or Seattle. I lived in Europe and have so many fond memories. My son is getting to experience the world and things aren’t going too good. I wish for him simpler times as I had at his age. I hope he will get them as he deserves it, but looks like he will have to wait.