We are living in the twilight zone.
Let me explain to all of you people who think this is a joke or ridiculous why it’s not.
When rob and I drove to the hospital, we passed by the breast center where all of my appointments used to be. There was a blue line painted on the road, and a nurse in a mask was in the driveway. It’s been turned into a coronavirus testing area.
Rob pulled up to the new building and I got out. I didnt get two feet inside the building before a nurse wearing protective gear including a clear face shield stopped me. I had to stand about eight feet away from her with the security guard at the desk and answer the questions she asked me. Had I been to China, India, Iran, Germany, France? Had I traveled domestically the past two weeks? Have I had a fever or cough? What was my name? Then she had me approach the table and there were boxes of golf pencils. She took one out with her glove and placed it on the check-in form. She said no one had touched the pencil, asked me to sign the form, then throw out the pencil.
The kindergarten teacher in me cringed, as I buy those pencils for my kids because they are easier to use for fine motor, and here it was being thrown out.
Then I went into the check in area and stood six feet from the counter and checked in. After that, I was sent to the waiting area. It’s a huge area… and I was the only one there.
It’s usually full.
It reminded me of the 80’s movie, “Night of the Comet”.
Chairs all over had paper signs saying to not sit in certain chairs so patients could keep a safe distance away from each other. I sat all alone and texted by doctors assistant to let her know I was there and to bring the blood biopsy kit.
I saw one of my chemo nurses from upstairs, and she promised me that she and the other nurses would be there for me on Thursday. We always hug, but yesterday we air hugged from across the room. I was called in to the port access room, and I was the only patient in there. My tomcat joe’s sister is engaged to the nurse educator’ son, and she came in right away to check on me. The nurse who was accessing my port and taking the labs and blood biopsy was new to me but had heard about me. I explained a dear friend had just gotten diagnosed with cancer and got a port that morning. I asked if I could videotape the port procedure and she said yes. I sent it to my friend so she could see what it is like to be accessed and have things done with the port so she can ease her mind. What we don’t know is always scarier. My doctors assistant also came in and we filled out forms as the blood biopsy was taken. It will take some weeks to get results. I hope the virus doesn’t extend the waiting period.
We finished and I texted rob to come back with the car.
I did it.
Today I wait for tumor markers to come back.
I also want to explain something to everyone. Hospitals make a lot of money from patients. Procedures and surgeries are being cancelled. It’s not a joke. People who have been waiting for surgeries are now being told they have been postponed. Cancer patients are going into appointments alone and stressed, and everyone knows stress is not good for anyone.
I also have something very important to tell you.
If a loved one has to go to the hospital, you cannot go in. If someone you love might be having a heart attack, or a stroke, or have an accident…no one can be with them. You drop them off and wait.
They are all by themselves.
So from now on, keep your phone with your charger. If you are admitted, you are the only one that can keep your family well informed about tests and procedures and how you are until a nurse or doctor, who is probably overwhelmed, can update your family.
That’s if you are able to text.
If not, your family will have no idea what’s happening, and you will not have someone by your side to advocate for you, keep you company, or listen with an extra ear to what doctors are saying to you. Make sure you designate a health care proxy.Should you be one of the people, (elderly or immunocompromised), more in danger to get the disease, and you get the virus, and you are lucky enough to get a respirator, you won’t be able to speak. The time to document your wishes is now. AARP has advanced directive forms by state on their website. You can also fill out a POLST, physicians order for life sustaining treatment, which is not synonymous with advanced directive and varies state by state.
I know this sounds morbid, but as a stage four patient for years, you want decisions made before you need decisions made, and of you are on a respirator you may literally be “voiceless”, so with this action now, doctors can honor your wishes.
Let me tell you, there is no scarier feeling than knowing your loved one is in a crisis, and you cannot be there. It’s a helpless feeling and scary.
This is not a joke, and if I see one more person ask for play dates or complain, or want to meet up for drinks or have a quarantine party… after seeing how seriously these nurses are taking it first hand, and knowing but not knowing what is coming to them…
your social distance is now a social responsibility.
Lives depend on it.
It’s also twilight zone with schools. The governor, who dug his heels in and would not close schools days ago, has done a quick 180 and is now closing everything. He announced yesterday afternoon after waiting days that he is closing NY schools until April 1… and only gave districts until midnight last night to come up with plans for feeding families, distance learning, and childcare. Oh, and the state Ed department can change their plan. Many believe it will be longer than April 1.
The last few months in my town people have bashed the schools. They said they would be ok with split sessions. Now everyone is complaining schools are closed and they better send more work home and feed the children. Apparently even a world pandemic doesn’t stop complainers.
I’ve never texted so much with my colleagues as I have the past few days. Teachers from all over are making Facebook groups to collaborate and share and figure out how to navigate the twilight zone. All while taking care of their own scared children.
It’s not the same all over. You may hear of one district handing out chrome books to everyone. Not all districts have chrome books because the state never fully funded them and couldn’t get what other districts have. Not all district have English speaking families. Some families aren’t literate in any language. Those are the children I worry about the most. It doesn’t matter what is sent home, parents can’t read it. Not everyone has internet access. Some families have three or four children, how can they all share one computer if they get longer assignments?
Let’s add on top of that high school seniors. Your senior year is what you have been waiting for your whole school life. Suddenly your last sport season may be taken away, your last school play, your last spring concert, your prom… so families are dealing with sad and upset teens who also cannot go hang out with friends.
Let’s put on top that all non essential business are closing. So families are now worried about paying for food and bills. Some don’t have health insurance. Some have grandparents who live with them, or loved ones with medical conditions that we hear over and over are the ones above the curve, and if we don’t flatten the curve, those people won’t even have a respirator should they need it.
So schoolwork is not the top priority right now for those families.
Some parents are trying, and realizing it is much harder than they though to teach their children. Parents are stressed, kids are stressed. Some have the work, some don’t.
If your child reads, writes every day in a journal, and practices some math problems similar to what they were learning this month (addition, subtraction, multiplication facts etc)…. they will be ok. Look through their past homework or binders and have them review vocabulary.
I think it’s more important that when they are older and tell their children and grandchildren about this time in history, they tell them not about the stressed parents and hard times, but the beautiful memories they made learning to bake or cook. When they started their garden. When they had family game night. When their parents told them about what life was like and had family history hour. When they walked in the woods for hours or on the beach and found shells.
Remember the movie, “Life is Beautiful”, about the man and son who were in a concentration camp but the father made it a game?
Limit the news, because it’s scary to adults, let alone children.
Restaurants are still open for takeout. Get gift certificates if you can afford it. Help keep these business alive.
If you’ve learned anything from me these past three and half years, it’s that you may not be able to control what is happening, but you can control how you react.
There is always… ALWAYS… something to be grateful for. Even if it is just that you opened your eyes today.
It’s Saint Patrick’s day. Wear some green. Listen to some Irish tunes. Try to talk like your Irish all day to your children. Hide green shamrock drawings all over your house.
I’ll be praying for news for a loved one, and praying for good tumor markers for myself.
Every day has brought more and more distressing news.
May the luck of the Irish be with us all.
In Jesus’s name, amen.