THIS WEEK: More Staff Deaths |  Jessica Bussert  |  Founder & CEO Thursday, April 30th

I walked to work through a light drizzle on Sunday morning. Luckily I had remembered to pick up an umbrella the day before so I arrived moderately dry. There have been a few sunny days but not enough for my liking. All the gray and clouds can leave

Lady Liberty

me feeling a little down, especially in the context of a global lockdown and pandemic. I really need some sun! It’s not like it matters too much on a workday because you arrive early enough to only catch the first part of sunup and you leave after sundown. Still, if it’s warm enough you can go outside during your lunch break. That’s not going to happen today or tomorrow from the looks of things.

I think when this is all over I’m going to need to take a two-week vacation on some sun-drenched Caribbean island! Or maybe I’ll go the other direction and finally visit Tahiti! Yeah… And pigs have wings.

I signed in and collected up my PPE. There wasn’t an n95 in the package and so I asked the tech about it. He told me we’re supposed to start saving them and using them over for a couple of days.

That’s just not going to work! I’m pretty sure the staff that I’m working with will up and revolt if the hospital tries to make a hard-line out of that decision. When I told him I didn’t have one with me he went out and fetched one and I was able to dress properly for the start of my shift. I’m happy to report I didn’t hear anything more about a new mask policy the rest of the shift.

As I got on the floor to get report it was obvious there was a cloud hanging over the place. During the previous shift one of the evening supervisors for the ER who had been struggling with the virus had finally lost their battle. People were in tears and hugging one another. Even though I had never met her she was a part of my team, a part of my work family. It’s hard to explain. We all work in a high-stress environment trying to achieve hugely important results and I think that we cling together in a way that some other coworkers may not. Perhaps this is how it feels to be a Marine in a combat zone.

Later in the day I learned of a doctor at another local hospital who had committed suicide.

Ironically they had contracted the virus weeks earlier and actually recovered from it. Or seemingly so. There is some talk about people experiencing a wave of depression following recovery. I don’t think there have been any studies done on this and it is just speculation at the moment. Still, it makes sense. Either way, she was yet another casualty of this horrible disease.

Please remember to pay attention to any extreme sadness in yourself or in your loved ones if you’ve suffered through the virus and are now on the mend. Isolation and social distancing make things even worse, but now it is particularly important for us all to stay connected in any way that we can. Pick up your phone and call your family. Use one of the free video apps available on the internet. Just do something to keep in touch with one another.

I took my lunch that day in the hospital’s chapel. I and the priest were the only ones physically present for the noon Mass being televised to the patients in the facility. I found some much-needed solace in the scripture and the Eucharist to help me with the rest of my day. My shift finally ended that night and I walked home in the misty rain. I showered and went to bed only to get up and do it again on Monday morning.

When I arrived no one questioned me about PPE and I received another mask with my gown and other equipment. I was glad for that as I was in no mood for conflict. As I left the office and walked to the nursing station I noticed a small collection of staff placing a memorial tribute on the wall near the locker room in honor of the staff member who passed the previous day. I lingered for a moment looking at the pictures and then offered my condolences to those who knew her.

Monday was a busy day in the ER. I’m pleased to say that I helped avert a possible disaster during my shift. The electronic medical records (EMR) system that the hospital uses associates a biohazard symbol next to the rooms of patients with special health concerns. Right now you see this symbol on a lot of patient rooms because of all the COVID infections going on. And because of the current surge in patients, it is common practice to room together with people who are each infected with the virus. Unfortunately, the EMR also uses the same symbol for patients infected with MRSA or HIV. This fact led to a dangerous situation where a tech tried to room a COVID positive patient with an HIV positive patient. The last thing you want to do is put someone who is immunocompromised in close proximity to another patient with COVID! Luckily, we were able to catch the mistake before anyone was exposed.

The rest of the shift went about as well as could be expected given the chaos of the current situation. I’m trying to see the positives all around me but sometimes that gets pretty difficult. The lack of supplies. The desperation in the eyes of the staff and patients. The loneliness of being far from friends and family. All of it combines together and tries to eat on your soul. It’s hard to keep a good outlook.

Mindful of this I decided to use the next couple of days off to do something affirming. Tuesday was a beautiful bright sunny day! I actually put on a dress and took a nice long walk through Prospect Park. After an hour and a half I headed into the business district of Brooklyn just to meander around a bit. There was a fair bit of activity on the sidewalk. I’m glad to say everyone was wearing masks but it seemed obvious that they, like me, needed to get out into the sunshine.

A moment later I passed a small shop that was selling bouquets of flowers in addition to more necessary merchandise. I bought a big bouquet and surprised the vendor when I promptly took it out of its paper and untied the bundle. As I walked down the sidewalk I began to hand individual flowers off to strangers. I’m sure everyone thought I was crazy! Some people politely declined. Others took a flower with a big smile and a thank you. I’m sure no one really understood that I was doing it more for myself than for any of them. Random acts of kindness really are good for the soul.

On Wednesday morning I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. and got dressed for a chilly day. I then grabbed my camera bag and tripod and took an Uber over to Times Square. Over the next eight hours I meandered my way across Manhattan until I finally ended up in Battery Park with sore feet and about 700 photographs! I’ll be sharing some of these over the next few weeks. Please let me know what you think!