Editor's note: Marcia Foster is a nurse practitioner and CoServ Member who lives in Frisco. She spent most of April in New York City, caring for patients with COVID-19. This article is based on a Facebook post she shared, and it serves to remind us of both the pandemic's devestating effects and the selfless healthcare professionals who confronted it head-on, often at the expense of their own health and time with their families. We salute Marcia and all the other front-line medical workers who put their lives on the line and have worked tirelessly to help others.
His phone fell out of some linen as I tidied up the room. I began throwing away the medical supply wrappers that were strewn about, along with empty bags, vials and saline flushes. He was on life support, requiring an emergency airway when his lungs failed after being invaded by COVID-19.
The phone had 1% charge left. I picked it up and, suddenly, it began to buzz. Text messages flooded the screen. I felt like an intruder, and yet I wondered: Could I possibly comfort those trying to reach him? But the text messages were in Cantonese, his native language. I saw multiple texts, all unanswered, and then quietly tucked his phone in a safe place with his other belongings.
My eyes wandered back to his hospital bed and filled with tears. He’s here alone, with a ventilator keeping him alive. He’s in a medically induced coma and on multiple life-sustaining medications. I watch the rise and fall of his chest and listen to the hum of the portable ventilator. He’s not much older than I am.
I do what comes naturally. I speak to him. I sing to him and gently wipe his face. I tell him that his family and friends are texting him and that they love him and would be here if they could be. I tell him that I’m sorry this has happened to him.
The harsh alarms from my patient next door snap me back into reality. Throughout the night, it’s been a struggle to maintain her blood pressure. Just an hour ago, I was telling her that she was doing wonderfully, that we were working on getting her off the ventilator and removing the breathing tube. She nodded and understood. This room has been her home for almost three weeks now, and she’s been alone for all of it. Then I realize that she’s fading and is no longer awake. She has taken a turn for the worse. All we can do is stand by her bedside for the next five hours, titrating drips, afraid to leave her side. She also is just a few years older than I am.
When my relief comes, I hand off my report and realize that I haven’t sat down, eaten or used the bathroom in many hours. My whole body aches, and I crave fresh air. I apologize profusely to the oncoming team as we explain that despite our best attempts, we are still in a battle to stabilize her blood pressure.
I walk out of my unit and hear a gasp and then a scream. An elderly lady in the lobby is shaking, in tears. She’s been called to the hospital by the physicians regarding her husband. She knows it’s not good news. She’s alone, because only one visitor is allowed for end-of-life visits.
I go to her. I make sure the security guards will walk her up to her husband’s room and not leave her unattended. I want to hug her, but I can’t.
Instead, I head out the doors and into the fresh air. The tears sting my eyes as I struggle with how unfair life can be. The past two weeks are catching up to me: These are the faces and stories of the patients with COVID-19.
Please take a minute to pray for all those affected and also hug your loved ones. This could be you. This could be me. This could be any one of our loved ones. Things are getting better, but it’s far from being over.
Love from NY, Marcia