We're losing the war.  No, not that one.

Wanting throughout the glass door: a COVID-19 vigil

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A small piece of lint is tickling my nostril as I’m desperately attempting to not sneeze into the tight-fitting masks on my face. I do know that I won’t be able to regulate the masks as my gloves are sterile, and I’m standing suspended over a affected person’s physique with my gloves patinaed with small drips of blood combined with an antiseptic. The process is difficult because the affected person is mendacity on their abdomen, and the angles are all fallacious. The distant hum of the damaging strain filter mixed with the extreme warmth of a number of layers of protecting gear donned with care creates fixed steam rising round me, making the sweat drops rivilet down my again, into my goggles, and sure, into my masks. I lastly inhale and, not unexpectedly, choke on the piece of lint and proceed to double over with a coughing match that’s poorly timed on my half. The affected person continues to be there, the process half achieved, and everybody within the room is surprised into silence by my uncontrollable coughing.

Surprised expressions can now not be discovered within the medical intensive care unit. The shock and harmless platter of day-to-day life within the “unit,” as we referred to it, has been changed by principally silence and heavy sighs and, sure, tears. The every day routine continues as affected person care stays paramount in all our minds, however the our bodies are heavy, and spirits are crammed with darkish weight that looks as if an oil slick. One you can’t see by means of or breakthrough, though it seems skinny and harmless on the floor.

The medical intensive care unit is the place one least desires to be; nevertheless, it must be when issues are dire and critical. Though the house is crammed with gentle, coming from the big home windows of every affected person’s room, it completely seems like working beneath dank, muddy water, the sunshine dimmed, filtered by means of feelings of despair, fixed grief, and occasional jubilation. Wins are nonetheless celebrated as life continues, however losses are many. So many who some can not merely go on because it feels that each one of this might have been averted, only a dream, we get up and the final two years by no means existed, evaporated in sweat and damaging strain, merely depraved away.

The glass door opens, separating the hallway and the within of the room, and actuality floods in. The affected person is quiet on the respirator, a machine that blows oxygen into the lungs and sweeps carbon dioxide out, serving to and complimenting the lung perform that’s severely impaired and ravaged by the virus. The machine is bodily divided into two elements so the dials and controls may be acted upon from the hallway and tubing and {hardware} that connect to the affected person contained in the room—separated by glass doorways while not having to stroll into the room. My colleague from respiratory remedy sits quietly exterior of the house in entrance of the dials of the respirator machine, making the smallest changes to permit higher oxygen supply for the affected person who’s desperately preventing for his or her life her.

The combat is a lonely battle. Interrupted by hourly nursing care, heavy medicines to sedate and take away the ache, numerous sticks of blood, checks, photographs, journeys to the CT scanners and procedures, on their own. Zoom conferences with family members, quietly wanting into the battle or emotionally overcome crying on the opposite finish of the display screen, solely mere minutes of the lengthy twenty-four hours, day after day. Though a lonely combat, it’s actually nicely witnessed, enveloped, and supported by all of the well being care workers who witness this battle every single day. We bear witness whereas exterior the glass door, exterior of the hospital doorways, voices, shouts, and screams defy our information of actuality and inform us that it’s not true. That we made it up. That nobody is dying. As we bear witness.

The process is all achieved and efficiently completed. The affected person is steady for now, suspended in a medically induced coma to permit life to proceed and hopefully persevere, so all can bear witness. After the combat, after they depart the intensive care unit and return to their lives after returning to their routines and every day chores, will they?

I systematically and punctiliously take off my sterile and protecting gear and open the glass door. A whoosh of air enters the damaging strain room as I exit. It feels contemporary on my sweaty, dirty face, and I instinctively lick my lips, remembering that I’ve not drunk any water right this moment or had to make use of the toilet. It seems like hope on my face. I take a deep breath and step exterior, end cleansing up and look into the eyes of my colleagues standing exterior of the doorway. The eyes are the one half that I can see, as everyone seems to be masked and sometimes wears some type of protecting gear, however the eyes say all of it. Gratitude is what I wish to ship to these eyes, for bearing witness, for being there, for doing what’s proper, time, after time, after time … therapeutic, to the very best of our talents, and opening doorways.

Katarine Egressy is a pulmonary and demanding care doctor.

Picture credit score: Shutterstock.com