I don’t suppose anyone chooses to visit a hospital in the middle of a pandemic, but in the wake of my recent stroke, I was forced to do just that. Doing so gave me a new appreciation of the men and women who work in healthcare.
My adventure began with a visit to my primary care physician.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the clinic was that I had to go through a sort of pre-screening before I could approach the desk to check in for my appointment.
There, and for the remainder of my experience, I never saw a person’s face. Everyone I encountered wore a mask, and some also wore shields.
It was like being trapped at some bizarre, never-ending Halloween party.
The screeners asked if I had experienced any symptoms, if I had been exposed to anyone with COVID-19, and if I had done any traveling recently. They also scanned my forehead to take my temperature. This became a familiar routine.
After a brief exam, my doctor sent me to the hospital to get an MRI of my brain.
This began with another round of screening and temperature-taking.
When the MRI was complete, I was asked to remain in a small waiting room until my doctor had seen the results.
Then, a nurse came along and whisked me off to a room in the surgery department. That made me think. I had just had an MRI on my brain, and now I was in the surgery department connected to a bunch of wires.
As it turned out, I didn’t have brain surgery. I guess that was just a place to store me until they figured out what to do with me.
Eventually, I was admitted to the hospital, where I was introduced to a steady stream of people for the next two days. I couldn’t pick any of them out of a lineup, on account of the masks. I gather there were a collection of doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, physician’s assistants, technicians, and more.
Each time there was a shift change, I was handed off to a new lot who administered the same tests and asked the same questions. I was asked my name and date-of-birth so many times, I secretly began to wonder if they were trying to trip me up. I considered giving them different answers one time just to relieve the monotony, but then I figured they were just doing their jobs, and they didn’t strike me as the kind of people who would have a sense of humor about that sort of thing.
Before they would release me, I had to see a physical therapist, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and a neurologist.
The whole experience was a bit of a blur, but despite the anonymity, I did manage to learn a little bit about the pleasant voices behind the masks.
I learned that the voices belong to real people who are doing incredibly stressful, demanding jobs under difficult conditions.
They do delicate, precise tasks while wearing gloves, masks, and other protective equipment. They have to stop and wash their hands constantly, and use hand sanitizer every time they enter or exit a room. Through all this, they remain committed to the health of their patients, and worry about protecting their own families.
I heard from healthcare workers whose lives have changed in the face of COVID-19. I heard how some of them after a shift on the front lines strip off in their garages when they get home. They sanitize anything they might have touched in their cars, then take a shower before greeting their own children or even their pets.
Others are choosing to live apart from their families during this pandemic to keep them safe.
For some people, COVID-19 may be something remote. It might be easy for those people to sit back and debate whether it is fair for them to be inconvenienced by it.
For others, such as healthcare workers and others on the front lines, COVID-19 is a reality that affects their professional and private lives every day. They make sacrifices to protect the rest of us. Now, more than ever, we owe them our thanks.