In the past month i had watched the majority of my favorite patients die. I had watched colleagues complain of shortness of breath, chest pain, and headache. I had fought my battle with my own 7 weeks of symptoms. I had been run from, glared at, and chased out of stores with people shouting at me because i was wearing scrubs. I was not welcome anywhere in the community because of what i did for a living and i wasn’t valued in my profession either. I had lost my rights as a human being; for the good of the people. They no longer looked at us as beings but expendables…those who would do the work no one else wanted to under poor conditions with little supplies, no sleep, no mental health, and keep trudging forward as more and more of our rights were stripped away. I tried to sound the alarm that we were still people; human beings with thoughts and feelings; valid lives…but nobody cared. We were not people anymore. Just potential threats and usable resources depending on who you asked.
In the news on the patients’ television sets and on the podcasts i listened to at night people spoke of how healthcare workers were celebrated and supported in the larger cities. At a certain time each night people hung out of their windows and banged on pots and pans to show their support in new york city. In Seattle and Austin people shouted “You got this” and “Together we stand” as nurses and doctors made their way into healthcare buildings. In Houston people parked their cars with home-made signs of encouragement in the hospital parking lot and lit up the walkway to the building with their headlights, playing music and screaming “We believe in you!” and “Thank you for all that you do!” as healthcare personnel entered the hospital. In San Antonio car parades visited the nursing homes and whooped and hollered out the windows of their very decorated vehicles as staff came out to take a break and sneak a peek at the brigade of cars that had come to keep their spirits up as they tried their hardest to swallow their own fears while helping the residents cope with the new conditions and dangers of modern day life. There was no such comradery in the country. We didn’t have any parades. People didn’t bang on pots and pans. No restaurants were delivering free take-out to our facilities to feed people who were working at the time the grocery stores were being cleared out of their inventory, and when words were shouted at us they weren’t words of encouragement. They were spiteful, ugly words spoken in fear.
One day i walked into the office after treating a patient and my supervisor handed me a bag. It was the size of a dental office goody bag; the kind they sent home full of toothpaste, brushes, and floss after each cleaning. Inside were some small snacks such as granola bars and cheezits. There was a paper that read “Adopt a Nursing Home”. There was another smaller paper with a hand written note, “We thank you for what you do and are praying for you daily.” It was from the Sisters in Service. On it they had written “Luke 12:35”. I began to cry. My supervisor looked at me. With tears streaming down my face i said, “Someone out there still thinks of us as people.” She smiled, “i thought you’d appreciate that.”