I hadn’t planned on spending 7 hours in the emergency department. The last time I was in the ER during this pandemic, I was triaged, diagnosed, treated and released in less than five hours. This time, however, I was red-zoned. I came in with a fever, and even though it was caused by an internal infection, no one was taking any chances. Being in the red zone means you get to sit in the ambulance bay, with other fever-riddled patients and you wait. In order to keep COVID-19 under control, those without fever or any symptoms of the virus get to enter the ER though the regular doors and are treated first. Add to that an unusually busy night – restrictions had been eased and people were out again – and the wait is going to be intolerable.
At hour 4, when I wanted to go home, the ER nurse told me that my white blood cell count meant I wasn’t going to be going home anytime soon. I spent the next 3 hours, between being treated in emergency and being admitted, googling what the indicators of low and high white blood cell count meant. Shitty rabbit hole to go down when you are tired, in pain, afraid and alone.
Once admitted, the nurse to whom I had been assigned was running ragged, complaining under her breath about the how 12 of the 25 rooms in the pod were under isolation. There were signs on some of the sliding doors indicating which rooms required droplets and infection precautions. Full PPE for every nurse, doctor or health care aide who entered those rooms. I watched the frenzied activity from behind my own glass door. When my nurse wheeled her computer on a cart to my room to take my history, it didn’t strike me as odd that she did so from the hallway.
It wasn’t until almost an hour later, when a commode was wheeled into my room and a box of hospital grade barely there facial tissue was tossed on the bedside tray, that the shock of what was happening hit me. I was one of the 12. Part of the dirty dozen.
For three days, I wasn’t even permitted to come out the room. I called my husband to tell him what little I knew and to give him a list of things I would need for the next few days. Toilet paper was top of the list. After the first pee, I knew I was going to need something with better absorbency than the dollar store tissue paper the nurse gave me.
I spent a week in the hospital surgical ward in a room with no windows. With no television and no company other than my own thoughts, I had loads of time to reflect. And listen. When I wasn’t trying to distract myself with Amazon Prime or Netflix, Facebook or Twitter, I was staring at the walls. I slept a lot, letting the pain killers pull me into a stupor. One I was released from the room and allowed to walk the halls, I took full advantage. I paced the ward, celebrating 500 steps, then 850, then 1000. Small victories.
The day before my surgery, I was sitting up in bed, editing videos for a client. The day of my surgery, I watched several episodes of Hot in Cleveland in an attempt to divert my attention away from my anxiety. The hours after surgery were a blur (thank you hydromorphone). The next day, still addled with post-op pain, I forced myself out of bed. Movement heals me. Later that afternoon, in a bubble of energy and creativity, I paced the halls, phone in hand, thumbs flying over the keyboard.
I walked back and forth for more than 30 minutes, writing content for some of my clients. I wrote an intro for a newsletter, a blog post, and pillar page content, like it was no big deal. I was completely oblivious to the fact that I had a surgical drain pinned to my gown, that my arms were black and blue from 3 IVs, blood thinner shots and daily blood work. I was a 100% in the zone.
When I was done, I collapsed into bed and fell into a restful sleep, the first in 6 days. When I woke a little more than a hour later, I felt a satisfying level of accomplishment deep in my gut. It was confidence I was feeling, knowing that my innate skill could come forward no matter the circumstances. My fingers twitched with excitement. I was ready to declare what I’ve known all along.
I am a writer, and a very good one.