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Thanking Our Healthcare Heroes

Burned out from the pandemic, Nurse Ashley Bartholomew quits her job.

With Donald Trump continuing to ignore the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic on the American people, Covid-19 is taking a heavy toll on the health care workers who heroically fight day in and day out to save lives and return their patients home to their families.

"Health care systems are scrambling anew. The crises of ICU beds at capacity, shortages of personal protective equipment, emergency rooms turning away ambulances, and staff shortages are happening this time not in isolated hot spots but in almost every state," wrote Drs. Wendy Dean and Simon G. Talbot on Nov. 25.

"Clinicians again face work that is risky, heart-rending, physically exhausting, and demoralizing, all the elements of burnout. They have seen this before and are intensely frustrated it is happening again.

"Too many of them are leaving health care long before retirement. The disconnect between what health care workers know and how the public is behaving, driven by relentless disinformation, is unbearable. Paraphrasing a colleague, “How can they call us essential and then treat us like we are disposable?”

Wendy Dean is a psychiatrist and president and co-founder of the nonprofit organization Moral Injury of Healthcare. Simon G. Talbot is a reconstructive plastic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, and co-founder of Moral Injury of Healthcare. Their complete article can be seen here.

The Impact of Disinformation

All of this is happening as cases continue to surge, today reaching 13 million cases and 263,000 deaths nationwide. And the fact that our doctors, nurses, physicians assistants and all other health care workers are rising their own lives trying to save Covid-19 patients who believed Donald Trump's lies about their disease is simply incomprehensible.

Here is a thread from Twitter from November 16 written by Ashley Bartholomew, BSN, RN @TheBlondeRN. An Air Force veteran, she is a mom of three boys, so after caring for deathly sick, infectious patients every day, she must return home to her family.

Read it. No other words are needed.

I’m an RN in El Paso and was recently transferred from the OR to COVID ICU. I resigned from my job last week and I’ve been asked several times, “What was the breaking point?” I don’t know a specific one, but I’ll share this:

On my last shift I had a very eye opening experience. El Paso was in the middle of its hardest hit time with covid hospitalizations and cases. I was working in covid ICU and at the time checking finger stick blood glucose levels on the entire unit, about 25 patients.

One of my last rooms to go into the patient was awake and alert. He was being transferred to a lower level of care in the next hour or so. The news was on, El Paso in the national headlines again for needing more freezer truck morgues. The patient makes small talk.

He mentions hating “fake news”. He says, “I don’t think covids is really more than a flu.“ I clarified, “Now you think differently though?” He replies, “No the same. I should just take vitamins for my immune system. They (news) are making it a big deal.”

I’m shocked. I’m at a loss for words. Here I am basically wrapped in tarp, here he is in a Covid ICU. How can you deny the validity of covid? How is this possible? Misinformation is literally killing people in mass, I think to myself.

Typically as a nurse we usually put on a face. We don’t tell our patients another patient just died. We don’t tell them what we just saw. We walk in to care for that patient as they are. We give them our full unbiased care. I make a choice. Something I’ve never done. I say, “To be honest this is my last shift. You’re the only patient of 25 that has been able to speak to me today or is even aware I’m here.”

He’s surprised but doubtful and asks if other people are doing as well as him. I tell him I’ve never seen so many people SO very sick.

“Really?” He asks if a lot of people have died. I’m brutally honest. I tell him in 10 years of being a nurse I’ve done more CPR and seen more people die in the last 2 weeks than I have in my entire career combined.

His tone changes, he seems to have understood the gravity of what I’m saying. He apologizes. I cry. The hot tears roll down my face from under my glasses, onto my mask, my respirator, from under my face shield and onto my gown. I apologize for tearing up and compose myself.

A few hours later I had the opportunity to transfer him in a wheelchair to a lower level of care, a medical COVID floor. He sees the other patients in the ICU as we are leaving. We arrive to to the floor and I’m waiting to give report to the nurse.

He says one more thing, “Thank you for telling me what you told me. Thank you for being a good nurse and about me. I saw a lot of the other ones when you were wheeling me out of ICU. It’s much more than a flu, I was mistaken.”

I thanked him and I told him I hope he has a complete recovery. I hope he can heal. “I will tell everyone that denies how bad this is about my experiences,” he says. I will too, Sir. I will too.

Like her co-workers, @TheBlondeNurse is nothing less than a hero, without whom the consequences of this pandemic would be so much worse. On March 26, when the Covid 19 death toll had not yet reached 1100, I wrote this:

What will we do if doctors, nurses, technicians and other healthcare workers get sick from the virus and no longer can work?

Clearly, the impact is now being felt.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and instead of expressing concern to the families of those who have lost loved ones, or thanking health care workers such as Bartholomew for all that they do, defeated President Trump simply bragged about the coming vaccines, telling reporters:

“The vaccines — and by the way, don’t let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccine. . . . Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines, because the vaccines were me.”

Those remarks came after he told reporters that he would leave the White House January 20 if the Electoral College votes for President-Elect Joe Biden.

That day cannot come too soon. No longer will the president of the United States be spreading disinformation and lies about the virus, saying it's nothing more than the flu, to the point that deathly ill patients end up in the care of people like Nurse Bartholomew, some gasping for their final breath.

On that day in January, that part of the pandemic will be over.

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