Since early last Spring, when our nursing home had its first case of COVID-19, life, and death, have never been the same.  Being immersed in the deadly effects of the invisible poison we call COVID-19 has consumed the lives of those of us caring for patients inflicted with this horrible illness.

We quickly became a small army battling something fierce that we could not see, feel, or defeat.  Here we are, close to the end of October, with still no end in sight. Although our building has been “Covid free” for some time now, I fear that until a safe, reliable vaccine has been created, tested, and distributed, that COVID-19 will remain the center of existence for our already taxed health care system.

Despite daily media coverage of COVID-19 and its unsuspecting victims, some people will not wear a mask.  This thinking boggles my mind.  People are dying, every single day, and you can help prevent the spread of this perplexing virus and choose not to?  Why?  Wearing a mask, and eye cover for your own sake (more data is coming out to confirm that COVID enjoys being imbedded in your eyeballs) has been identified as a way of saving lives.

By not doing this, you own some responsibility for anyone you encounter, either casually or intimately, who subsequently comes down with COVID-19.  You are freely giving COVID-19 more strength to do its dirty deed. We did not know much at the beginning of our fight and now know more but are still waiting for answers.  What we do know is that wearing a mask has saved lives and it is the responsibility of anyone who considers him or herself a decent human being to wear one, too.

On our worst days, staff members, from all departments, donned the proper PPE (gloves, paper gowns, masks, and eye protection) and  sat next to the beds of our beloved residents.  We held their hands, and provided support, as they took their last breath.  This happened more times than I can think about without tearing up.   We transformed from caregivers to family because family were not allowed to come in our building as their loved ones perished.  This tragic time has paused, for now, but those of us who experienced days like this will never forget.

I’ll make a deal with you.  I will commit to the following if you agree to wear a mask.

1. Weekly testing of my nostrils with an unforgiving Covid 19 nasal swab.
2. Care for your loved ones when you are not able to.
3. Endure the frequent visits from the National Guard and Department of Public Health ensuring that we are following the guidelines set forth by our governor and the CDC. (By the way, they never stop by with coffee or just to say, “Hi you’re doing a great job-keep up the fine work.”)
4. Come to work and never give up hope while waiting for a vaccine or cure for this demon.

Unfortunately, this is not our last rodeo.   When we get a safe vaccine, that may be just the start of returning to our lives to some level of normalcy.  Until then, we healthcare workers are suffering from what I refer to as CTSD (Continued Covid Traumatic Stress Disorder) and those we care for, and their loved ones, remain fearful and vulnerable.

For those of you who have experienced COVID-19 firsthand, I am sorry and hope you, and those you love, have recovered.  For those of you who have been fortunate enough to escape the wrath of COVID-19 count your blessings and Wear Your Mask.

Bonni Lapp Horwitz, MSN, RN is Director of Nursing, West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation

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