FEATURE — A few weeks ago, my sister texted me in distress. Her 9-year-old’s kidneys were leaking high levels of protein again, and she needed me to meet her at the emergency room ASAP.
After an hour in the waiting room and another two hours in the exam room, without yet being seen by a doctor, my sister and I were both starting to feel frustrated. It didn’t help that my nephew was now regularly vomiting and utterly miserable.
The assistant to the doctor finally arrived. Then the doctor. And finally, a nurse.
The assistant seemed a little scared. And a little confused. “No,” I told her, “he doesn’t need that test – he already had it done at the pediatrician’s office earlier today. That’s why we are here right now.”
The doctor seemed neither scared nor confused, but she did close her eyes every time she talked to us. Maybe it was exhaustion. Maybe it was a nervous tic.
Whatever the reason, when the nurse finally came in with a normal bedside manner, my sister and I thought we’d hit the lottery. She talked about care at home and discharge instructions, and she apologized for the long wait.
“We’ve been crazy all night,” she explained.
“COVID-related?” I asked.
She nodded. And elaborated. “COVID, RSV and then all the other regular emergencies and sickness.”
My sister then asked if there were many kids on ventilators – partly as friendly conversation and partly because she’s a mom of three young children and she worries. Like most moms.
The nurse froze from head to clog. I think she even stopped breathing. The only thing that moved were her eyes, which were wide and oscillated wildly between my sister and me.
Ten solid seconds of silence and then she half yelled, “I don’t think I can talk about that,” about-faced and ran out of the room.
My sister and I burst out laughing.
“Did that really happen? “She went full possum!” We reenacted the scene at least seven times trying to piece it together. And also, because laughter is really the best medicine.
We were still giggling about it the next day until my husband heard the story and illuminated us with his inside knowledge.
He is not a vaccine lover. In fact, he is a freedom lover. He believes in his body’s own immune system. He hates masks but wears them when he must.
And he also works in healthcare.
He explained that hospital phone lines have been flooded with angry people who don’t believe that people are getting sick and want the hospital staff to confirm their personal narratives, even though they can’t, because both kids and adults are really getting sick.
He suspected that nurses and other staff had been cautioned against engaging in conversations with patients and family about “who’s sick with COVID?” They are usually no-win.
This morning, my husband and I were talking about a friend’s recent COVID diagnosis.
This is a friend who, earlier in the pandemic, told her children they couldn’t see my children because we weren’t taking COVID seriously enough.
We didn’t feel like this was accurate. Our family COVID protocol was simply a little different than her family’s.
Neither family sequestered at home. We each simply took different risks. And in those early days, it was common to judge someone for choices they made that were different from yours.
In talking about our friend’s diagnosis, my earlier experience at the emergency room and a recent news report out of Billings, Montana, about a man who threw his own feces at a doctor treating him in a hospital overrun with COVID, my husband just shook his head.
“We’re not going to get out of this pandemic until we all realize we are one.”
Albert Einstein said: “A person experiences life as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion, to find the reality of oneness.”
So today I will recommit to doing my part in healing the rift in the oneness in my own life. Of letting go of the perceived judgment of others. Of letting go of my own. With a box of Kleenex, a bottle of Motrin and some warm soup for a friend in need. Because if she has COVID, I have it, too.
Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.
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