Some of you may have caught the front-page story in the Wall Street Journal highlighting how overwhelmed New York City hospitals are. The prime example used to illustrate the dysfunction, disorder and dangerous staff conditions was Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. That is the hospital at which our daughter first worked.
After graduating from nursing school, Lapinette #5 began her nursing career on the medical/surgical wards. After a few years, she moved to the ICU (intensive care unit). Two years ago, she went back to school to get an advanced doctoral degree as a nurse anesthetist. While her training requires clinical rotations in hospitals around the city along with classroom study, those rotations have been canceled due to COVID-19.
Her nursing license is current, the skills she painstakingly acquired during her years in the ICU are somewhat rusty but, like riding a bicycle, she could probably quickly get up to speed. Mayor de Blasio has written to her as well as to every other non-working nurse and she is getting phone calls from City Hall, pleading with her to go back to work.
Our daughter is hearing firsthand from her former co-workers about exactly what the newspaper article described. There is not enough protective gear to make even a pretense of keeping nurses and doctors safe from exposure to the virus. The physical and emotional toll on the staff is devastating.
Our daughter, the mother of two young boys, is torn. She and her family have most likely had the virus. Her son’s preschool teacher tested positive and seven days later our children and grandchildren began running fevers and feeling achy. Seven days after that, her amazing babysitter tested positive and both our daughter and son-in-law lost their sense of taste and smell, indicative of the COVID-19. Thank God, their cases were mild and they recuperated at home. They did not meet eligibility for testing, so, like thousands of other people, their cases have not been officially confirmed.
Now she faces a dilemma. She has been trying to get tested to verify that she has developed antibodies to the disease. (An example of the disarray is that while the city is frantically trying to find more medical workers, antibody tests are not easily available.) If that is the case, she is feeling a strong tug to head back to the ICU. That pull comes from two places. One is connected to the reason she went into nursing in the first place, a strong desire to help people. I think the other pull may even be stronger. Akin to how soldiers in a unit bond together and support each other, she wants to provide relief to her ex-co-workers who are in the trenches.
As her mother, I am proud of her desire to contribute. My husband and I raised her to be a giver rather than a taker and she is living the teachings she absorbed. But, as her mother, I desperately want to protect her and our grandchildren. I am censoring myself not to plead with her to stay home and I admit to being grateful that she wasn’t on active duty when this plague broke out. Even some of her fellow nurses are telling her not to come back—lack of safety precautions for them is even worse than we are reading. New York is failing to take care of those who take care of her.
Despite being strongly patriotic, none of our children enlisted in the U.S. military. There were good and valid reasons for their not having taken that path. Nevertheless, while we have always supported and appreciated our troops—even before 9-11—we haven’t laid awake at night worrying about our own child in a war zone. Now, with a son on the medical front line and a daughter considering stepping in, we are left praying for their safety and that of their comrades as we move into the back seat and respect their convictions and their need to make their own momentous decisions.