More perspectives from our readers on the COVID-19 health emergency

In this second installment of our Your Stories feature, some Healthcare IT News readers describe their own thoughts and experiences of the coronavirus pandemic. We encourage you to continue sharing your own.
By HIMSS News
03:07 PM

(Julian Finney / Getty Images)

In March, we asked our readers to share their stories of how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting them, both personally and professionally.

From the beginning of this global pandemic, the HIMSS Media information brands – Healthcare IT News, MobiHealthNews, and Healthcare Finance News – have been working to bring you important information and updates on the situation. But we felt that our readers, from healthcare providers to tech professionals, administrators, insurers, investors, entrepreneurs and others, could tell us what they're seeing on the front lines and in their daily lives.

You can read this past week's installment here. We intend to update the responses, weekly.

Please send us your stories to yourstories@himss.org. We ask that, if possible, to include your name, position, city and state/region, and country. Please let us know if you’d prefer your story to be shared without your name attached; if you do, we’ll honor that request. Comments may be edited for length and content.

Our HIMSS Media publications want to share your stories, in your words. We’re living in a strange, often scary, new world. Let’s learn from each other and get through it together.

Professional healthcare providers

March 29, 2020

Mary L. Cameron
Duluth, Minnesota

I am a three-years-retired administrator from the University of Minnesota Duluth. On March 26, I contacted my primary physician because I was experiencing shortness of breath, severe coughing and wheezing.

From the time I entered the doors at Methodist Hospital, I was treated with compassion and respect. I spent approximately three hours in the ER section where I was tested for COVID-19, flu and pneumonia, and my oxygen level was constantly measured. An EKG was given, blood drawn and an IV was connected prior to me being moved to an isolated floor.

I have never experienced anything like this before in my life, and even though I had respect for our healthcare providers prior to this experience and learned a lot about what they do – having a sister as a nurse – I realized though this 2 1/2 day stay how much these people are committed to their profession, how they are risking their lives when they are providing for patients that potentially are affected by this horrible and deadly disease.

Each time they entered my room to provide an additional test, to constantly draw blood, to check to see if I was OK, they entered in gowns, mask and gloves and as they exited my room. They removed the same – so each time these providers entered my room, they entered with new protective gear, so as to not to expose myself and others!

This is why it is so important that we provide them with what they need. At no time did these nurses and doctors make me feel uncomfortable, I was treated with such care and understanding.

I was released on March 28, after being given a negative diagnosis: One of the staff came in with no gown, no gloves and no mask and said, "You're negative." She put up both hands and welcomed my hands for a high five! She told me she felt like it was her birthday!

I applaud the healthcare professionals at Methodist Hospital and pray for their health and the health of their families. Thank you so very much for caring for me!

Social distancing will save lives

March 26, 2020

Surjit Singh Flora
Brampton, Ontario

We live in unprecedented times. We have heard it said time and again throughout this COVID-19 crisis. As I write this, millions of Canadians are either voluntarily confining themselves to their homes or are self-isolating after being exposed to the virus through contact with others suspected or confirmed to be infected, or after returning from abroad.

Non-essential stores are shut, malls are empty, once crowded public spaces and buildings are silent and empty, theatre stages are dark, and countless Canadians are not working. The effort and expense being expended to wrestle this illness into submission are staggering, and the damage to our economy will take years to repair.

And yet, while the most basic of precautions will contribute greatly to controlling the rate of infection, why is it that so many of us are not doing what is surely the duty of every Canadian?  And what are these basic precautions? Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze, self-isolate at home if you feel unwell, avoid being in groups, stay inside and out of harm's way, and perhaps most importantly, practice social distancing.

While I am a Canadian, I immigrated to this country by choice and that choice was one of the best in my entire life. In fact, many immigrants have settled here to make this country their home, and many have brought their parents and grandparents here to live with them.

And yet I am alarmed at what I see in my neighborhood and my community. These rules, these duties that we all must do to protect ourselves, our neighbors and our loved ones from infection are not being followed as they should.

I continue to see mass gatherings in my community. Weddings, parties in homes and halls. This is dangerous beyond belief and will only serve to fuel this pandemic, make more people ill and possibly even result in the death of the vulnerable among us.

Social distancing is important as it is one of the few, effective tools we can use to stop the spread of COVID-19. Whether buying our groceries or stopping at a pharmacy to pick up a prescription, we need to remain at least two meters away from each other as a means of not infecting those around us.

If you need any example of what happens if you don't take responsibility and use every precaution to not spread the virus or catch it yourself, look to the carnage that is Italy, or Iran, where out-of-control infection rates have strained health resources beyond the breaking point.

As I write this, more than 6,000 people have died of the virus in Italy. Their death toll has surpassed that of China.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, has asked us all to take personal action to flatten the curve, referring to the projected number of people who will catch COVID-19 over a period of time. If we can push those numbers down, we can avoid putting a major strain on our health system, lessen the rate of infection and ultimately save lives.

In fact, Dr. Tam has urged us not only to flatten the curve, but to "plank it" – meaning to aggressively beat those numbers down through consistent, aggressive acts of prevention.

It is everyone's duty, and in everyone's best interest to listen to Dr. Tam, and plank that curve!

New Canadians who hold their adopted country so dear should be leading the way. We are at a crossroads now. This will either continue to get much worse, or, if we take those precautions, and especially if we practice social distancing, we can turn the tide of this pandemic, get it under control, take the first step towards making our lives normal, and save lives in the process. Social distancing will save lives. And just maybe, the life you save may be your own. 

A hidden graveyard

March 27, 2020

Elayne Griffith
Sonora, California

There's a hidden graveyard, tucked amongst the trees, in my hometown of Jamestown, California. Most of the tombstones read: Loving wife 1880-1918, Sweet angel 1917-1918, Beloved husband 1861-1918.

Nineteen-eighteen, over and over. A warning, a reality, a sickle scraping across your door spelling out, Spanish Flu has come for You.

We've been here before. We've watched loved ones die before. I know; I've seen their graves. I never thought I would see names I recognize etched in the tombstones of Facebook.

What are you doing right now in quarantine? Watching Netflix? Pretending like you're going to exercise, align your chakras, and learn a foreign language?

Yeah right. We're freaking out. We all are. Perhaps we're drinking more, praying more, assimilating into the borg-couch, and you know what? That's okay. I know many that don't know how to pay next month's rent, for there's no price on dreams except capitalism.

As a millennial with delusions of grandeur and immortality, I am not mentally equipped to deal with an apocalypse.

I miss my mother, my father, my friends. I cry in secret, in isolation, but I'm afraid to kill those I love.

My husband and I escaped the San Francisco Bay area a few months before the pandemic hit, and are converting a van to live in, but are now under self-isolation in a garage in Murphys, California, where there's no toilet.

Sure, I've watched The Walking Dead, and joked about what I'd do during an apocalypse, but you know what? I'd rather be fighting off zombies with a machete on horseback than dealing with some invisible glob of apathetic RNA.

I'm terrified. I'm terrified that my friends and family will get sick and die. I'm terrified that I will get sick and die. I'm terrified that we'll take a decade or more to recover from this economically. My husband's a professional juggler and I'm a writer. We're kind of screwed.

But you know what else? You know what's still the most important thing in your life? Your loved ones, your family, your best friends, your just-friends, and your neighbor you hate but say hi to anyway at the grocery store.

Over "quarantinis," I FaceTimed with my high school band best friend, who is now a nurse, and you know what she said? "It is what it is." A very Tolkien-esque sensibility. Her resilience, her humor, and compassion gave me more strength than a thousand horses, than a thousand hours of television or self-pity or bottles of wine.

Despite the fear, the death, and "covidiocy" of our inept government, I felt loads better. Why? Because we chatted about gardens and Harry Potter World, about how there are no masks or robes for nurses and doctors, no food or toilet paper on grocery store shelves (but there was booze), and we imparted our funeral wishes – jokingly, seriously.

I never thought I would truly tell one of my best friends how I would like my funeral with a shroud of dread. I never thought I would tell her, in our thirties, how much I loved her and meant it with all my being because I was truly afraid of not growing old with her.

FYI: I want a festival of drinking and frivolity and my ashes put on a tiny boat and set aflame Viking style.

Although dark humor is good for your immune system, I implore, I remind, I command that to be human is to love. It is to sacrifice. It is to be a doctor or a priest who gets sick but gives the last ventilator to a stranger. It is to make sure your elder or immunocompromised neighbor is taken care of. It is to stay home, look at your greasy, sad self in the mirror, and love yourself anyway.

As an atheist I don't have the luxury of believing in a deity that has my welfare in its hands, but I still believe in humanity. I believe in our ability to persevere, to learn, and ultimately love one another. Perhaps I'm a melodramatic idealist, but I want us all, no matter political or ideological differences, to make it through and pull together.

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