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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Reese Kusza

This Will Be the Death of Us

I would like to die, in my dotage and in my garden, or after swimming in the ocean or somewhere out and about and not strapped to a hospital bed being ignored by strangers who do not care for me. Whilst middle aged now, it is a discussion I have already had with my children after a few "near misses".

None of us know the day nor the hour, but death comes to all of us. Anyone who has been close to it is well aware of it and, likely, no longer fears it. The young defy it because they take for granted what a gift a strong, healthy body is. As we age, every day we get out of bed and breathe and move freely is a blessing.

I have used up six of my nine lives already: childbirth, a bad car accident in 1997, nearly falling off a 108 foot aerial, sliding under a truck on an icy driveway, being grabbed around the neck by a mental health patient and having my lungs fill up with tofu last December. Never mind all the other “it’s nothing” incidents over the years at work where something bad did or could have happened, but, luckily, I got away with only a minor injury or none at all.

When the COVID-19 madness started, my children went nuts that I was still going to work. “Are you crazy, Mum?” No, kids, I’m not. It’s my job. I’m a nurse. I’m an EMT. While I am not going out of the way to take unnecessary risks, I am not going to sit at home and cower in fear. I work in a comparatively safe place. I wash my hands compulsively. I keep a mask and gloves in my pocket for close patient contact. If I still worked in an ER or a cardiac unit, I would be wearing whatever PPE my boss told me to wear and it would suck because N95’s are incredibly uncomfortable if you are wearing them properly. Rebreathing your own air sucks and you feel as if you are going to pass out after 15 minutes.

So, when I see bimbos dancing around in their special PPE on social media with balloons or balls or whatever stuffed down the back of their scrub pants to make their buttocks look huge, it really pisses me off. What in the name of God are you doing?! You look like idiots! It is an embarrassment to the profession! Never once when I worked in a hospital did I have time to make videos or take selfies. Every night was a madhouse. If we ever had fewer than 7 or 8 patients each, a dope of a manager or charge nurse would send somebody home. God forbid we have an easy night!

I take that back. I remember one Halloween when somebody did have a few seconds to snap a picture (the World War II vets get a kick out of you wearing your nurse cap instead of some other getup). I recall a handful of potlucks over the years when I was able to take a few bites of cold food in between starting IVs and medicating drunks and combative people and others who were gravely ill and miserable and would rather have been home, asleep in their own beds.

Right now, there are lots of doctors and nurses and patient care techs and respiratory therapists and EMTs and paramedics and police officers and firefighters and other front-line workers putting themselves in harm’s way. They will be burned out beyond all recognition when this is over. Unfortunately, government bureaucrats, not doctors who actually take care of patients, have decided who is allowed to be cared for.

Plenty of other doctors and nurses and medical professionals are out of work across the country because some government hack has decided their work is not “essential”. There are clinicians out there who want to take care of their patients and are forbidden to do so. Some lady with lupus is not seeing her rheumatologist right now. A college kid is not allowed to go to the dentist. A breast cancer patient can’t get a lumpectomy.

I had an appointment for a lung test that has not been rescheduled yet and probably won’t be until after the summer is over. Our brilliant governor has decided that people with lung damage don’t need to see their pulmonologists unless they have COVID-19. A phone call or "telehealth" visit will suffice.

I’m ok with that for myself because, thanks to a medication called Symbicort that my insurance only partially covers, I am doing pretty well and, if it ever stops raining, I might get a couple of good months in between now and September before winter sets in again. I would also like to stay out of the hospital for as long as possible because some cocky young buck there might try to kill me with a ventilator and, thankfully, my pulmonologist agrees.

If anyone wants to know, I consent to Hydroxychloroquine, Zinc and a Z-pack (I’m already on Vitamin D) because, yes, it might work and I am willing to try it before you intubate me and blow up my lungs.

I realize what I am saying is very unpopular if you don’t like President Trump. Heaven forfend the man ever be right about anything. But, listen, the Orange Man cannot be wrong about everything. I was working with patients in four different places during the H1N1 pandemic and that was handled abysmally by President Obama and his minions. Presidents make mistakes. Government officials make mistakes. Doctors and nurses make mistakes. Humans make mistakes. People die sometimes when they needn’t.

It is a fact of life. Sad as it is, people die. I will die someday. My kids will die someday, just hopefully not before I do. My oldest daughter could have died of cancer in 1999, but she didn’t. My youngest son should have died from meningitis in 2003, but he didn’t. I’m shocked (pun intended) I didn’t go into cardiac arrest from acute respiratory distress late last year. What can I say? All those years of busting my hump paid off and I have an athletic ticker. There is a reason I’m still here.

So, I get up and go to work every day. I will get up and go to work for as long as I can. It is what I do. That doesn't make me any more essential than anyone else. If someone wants to stay home for the rest of his or her life for fear of catching a dose, be my guest. Our taxes will pay to support you. That's what Social Security and disability are for -- to take care of the elderly and infirm. But, in order for that check to keep coming, the rest of us need to go back to work.

I am really furious that there are people out there in the government who are still getting a paycheck telling other people in the private sector they can’t work even if they take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of disease. It is criminal that Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen and Governors will get to spend the summer on Martha’s Vineyard and swim from their private beaches with other elites while the rest of us are locked out of public parks and pools and ordinary places of learning and commerce.

Denying medical care that isn’t virus related to millions of Americans is unethical. It will harm the health of our citizens more than any lives it might save from COVID-19.

It’s not “the right thing to do” and it will be the death of us.

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