Thanks to all nurses before, during, and after the pandemic
It took me six months to try to explain what my and I family went through with COVID-related hospitalizations in West, Northwest Philadelphia, and Montgomery and Delaware counties. My story is a work in progress as I tried to remove as much emotion from detailing our experiences, but I’m still mourning the loss of a loved one as I live and learn about #LongCOVID.
You can read the full story here, but I wanted to take the time to thank the many nurses who tirelessly work on the front lines, choosing patient care first in the middle of the power struggle between doctors, hospital administrators, and bureaucracies.
Every day nurses often risk losing their jobs to save patients’ lives against doctors' orders and I’m a living witness and testimony to their bravery.
I am alive today because a nurse stood in that gap.
My last weekend in the hospital was terrifying. I could barely breathe. I was stuck in a dark dirty room for over a week at a local hospital. My sheets were never changed and housekeeping only came one time. I saw my nurse angel two to three times during my hospitalization. Sadly I can’t remember her name, but she stood out because she was phenomenal, patient and most of all caring.
Sunday night was one of the worst nights. My lungs hurt and I was having difficulty breathing. I kept ringing the bell and hearing a voice saying she was coming and eventually she did. That was probably the second time in almost a 12-hour span that I had seen anyone from the hospital other than food services.
When she came in, she immediately apologized and explained that they were short-staffed that weekend, and unfortunately, she was the only nurse on duty that night. I started to cry and said I didn’t want to die. I told her that I'd barely seen a doctor or any of the nurses in the last couple of days. She explained that I could contact patient services on Monday, but she would try her best to make me comfortable that night.
She saw that my breathing was labored and immediately checked my pulse oxygen levels with a working machine. She remembered that the machine in my room was broken and she got a proper reading and adjusted my oxygen. It was way too low.
I didn’t think I would make it through the night and didn’t want to die alone in a hospital so at approximately four or five o'clock I asked to be released because I knew the nurse was doing her best, but the hospital wasn’t adequately staffed for the infectious disease unit which she explained was completely full of other COVID patients.
I want to focus on the kind nurse who was the only nurse on duty prior to my release. I didn't think I would actually live to tell this story because I honestly was getting worse in the hospital due to what I would later find out is a nationwide staffing shortage. I've been in the hospital for a week when I noticed I was seeing the nurse and doctors less and less, yet my condition was worsening.
I told her I don't think I'm going to make it through the night, and she assured me I would. She told me to just ring the bell if I needed it, and she assured me that I would feel better once the oxygen kicked in. I’ll admit I was stressed and my frustration, fear and now anger was building not at this wonderful nurse, but at the hospital and the doctor. I remembered the video of Dr. Moore.
I later wrote a story about her experience for Women's History Month
I repeated that I did not want to die alone in the hospital and wanted to go home and asked her to contact the doctor to let him know that my oxygen was low, and I wanted to know why my treatment and care had greatly diminished over the last 72 hours.
She called the on-call doctor and she came back with a fearful look on her face. She looked hesitant to relay the message, but she said the doctor told her to tell me that he was my treating physician and if I was discharged or tried to leave that evening, he would say that I refused treatment, stop treatment and I would leave without any prescriptions or medical records.
Needless to say, this further infuriated me because I was under his care and I couldn’t recall ever meeting him. I’m not sure if I spoke to him directly or she took the call in the room, but somehow it was explained that I had in fact met him earlier that week.
All I know is after he threatened to stop treatment, she personally assured me that she would not let anything happen to me and she would be my nurse the next day because she was working a double shift.
I told her to tell the doctor to put his threats in writing and if he ordered her to stop treatment I would go live on social media name names – including his and the name of the hospital. The nurse was hesitant to relay my message, but I explained that as much as I liked her I was fighting for my life and I was serious and I needed her to relay my message verbatim. I hate that the doctor and I were sending messages through her but I asked the doctor to contact me directly and he didn’t.
When she returned, she said he asked me to spend the night and he would release me in the morning.
Needless to say, this was a bittersweet ending. I'm blessed that I made it through that night and the following morning I filed complaints with patient services, I also filed complaints with the nursing supervisor for the low staffing and made sure that in my complaint that I thanked the nurse for her excellent care that evening and advocated for her because she shouldn't have had to relay such a horrible message.
That night the only glimmer of hope and peace was that one nurse who was taking care of a whole intensive care unit on a Sunday night. I didn't see her the next morning she wasn't my nurse. I'm not sure if they sent her to a different unit or she got in trouble I don't remember her name and to protect her job and have chosen not to name the hospital.
I just want to thank her and people like my God mom, a retired nurse who stands in the gap and literally saves people's lives morning, noon, and night when heartless and unethical doctors send orders and messages they have to relay and ultimately defy to save our lives. It's not fair! Nurses should not be put in those situations but for the people who make it home to tell the story. I am a living witness to the outstanding standing bravery of nurses and the level of exceptional care that nurses give every day.
I felt so bad for her that she had to actually be the mouthpiece for my neglectful doctor, but her whisper and actual care saved my life and I'm here to tell the story and I urge more people to tell their stories.
My experience is one of many, at several local hospitals and I've written about my experiences from being denigrated to neglect it and I've watched family members suffer the same treatment repeatedly to say that there is a huge racial and gender disparity of care in the medical system is an understatement. The way Black, brown and other marginalized groups are treated in the hospital needs to be addressed but for now I'm praising nurses again and again who helped people like me make it home and tell our stories.
I know this isn't a perfect piece or a super well-structured article. This is literally a stream of conscience and a praise peace for the nurses who keep us alive. Thank you to those unsung and unnamed heroes in Philadelphia and around the world. The world would be a far different place if it wasn't for caring and dedicated nurses - thank you.