The first waves of COVID-19 in a nursing home — sharing memories, from heroes to dirty, filthy…

Published on June 19, 2021

Updated on December 25, 2023

I remember being called to a huddle with another RN, several LPNs and a number of CNAs to be told we have our first case of . A 102-year-old with lung disease and dementia who was well known among the 150 residents of the nursing home where I was recently hired as second shift RN Supervisor (responsible for the entire building — its residents, staff, equipment, supplies et all the building itself until my relief came in). We were told the PPE we would have to wear to provide care, the logistics of where the patient would be moved such that they were not near others, and how the shifts of care might work. I remember seeing the fear in the eyes of those around me since at the time the symptomatology, transmission, and how infectious was still evolving as cases were just starting in the United States and we were all learning on the fly.

I remember after the huddle how many of the staff outright refused to take care of anyone who had COVID-19. Some shared they lived with their parents or grandparents (or saw them often), others shared they were fearful for their own lives. Only a literal handful of us, including me, volunteered that we would be willing to care for anyone infected.

I remember the mainstream media and management calling us superheroes and applauding us while at the same time telling us we cannot follow the science of one-time use PPE, that we had to reuse the PPE we had to the point it was falling apart. I remember being told “do what you are told” when questing the complete lack of science behind the gowns (there was no proof then, and still no proof now the virus is transmitted by fomites and other material objects), the complete lack of science behind face shields (if it is airborne as was thought, the air still goes around the various open areas of the face shield).

Those of us providing care quickly found out that the CDC was off base for methods to quickly detect if someone might have COVID-19. Our team came up with the foundation behind the early detection of COVID-19 in the elderly. We learned very quickly that taking the temperature of a geriatric patient as a means to know if further testing should be done was a complete and utter waste of time. We were reminded that surgical masks and cloth masks do absolutely nothing to protect you from getting infected as several of my coworkers who used those vs. N95 masks quickly got infected themselves; thankfully 100% of those infected recovered. And we also learned that even with N95 masks and following the best PPE practices you can still infected; again, thankful that 100% of our staff recovered from COVID.

As our early detection methods worked, we found that high doses of vitamin D and C along with comfort food the patient could eat and using hydration (often using hypodermoclysis — Subq to abdomen or thigh secured with Tegaderm) and supplemental oxygen allowed for a 99% recovery rate including that of our 102-year-old patient.

The small handful of us caring for the increasing number of COVID-19 patients (the 1st one, then another three, then two, then a dozen, and so on as the virus went through the entire building) were often called “filthy” and “dirty” by those coworkers not participating in caring for those infected with the virus. Coworkers would literally scream ugly words at us if we dared leave the area to go to the breakroom (where one needed to go in order to clock in and clock out so we can get paid for our time). We were accused of spreading the infection through the building even though we were frequently tested and not even allowed into the building if we had a temperature (even though those of us who spiked temperatures didn't have the infection per testing); those who did get infected stayed home on quarantine until they had two negative tests separated by two to three days between tests.

Those employees asked to help threatened to quit, and some while not quitting would walk out of the building abandoning their patients and post, and due to the nursing home being short-staffed were rarely reprimanded or fired.

During these experiences, staff members that were not even anywhere near the infected patients were turning up positive themselves from being in the community. That was the ironic and sad part. They were the ones often screaming and yelling ugly words at those of us providing care for the infected and yet they were the ones often coming down with covid themselves (not that I wish any illness or infection on anyone). I believe that was in part due to those of us providing care wearing N95 masks even in public.

Personally, I cared for as many as forty (40) infected patients per work shift, and not often the same forty as 99% recovered (and not all at the same time). Sometimes the numbers would go into the low 30's, then pop back up as different residents got infected and were brought down to the zippered unit we created to house them and keep them separated from the others (keep in mind, per science the zipper plastic does absolutely nothing to stop an airborne virus spreading). Sometimes the level of care I provided varied from spot-checking in on severe patients, setting up IVs, inserting and setting up hypodermoclysis, and handling changes of conditions. I was also involved in giving medications to forty (40) patients using three medication carts while being responsible for the entire building.

Now, please take a moment to imagine the feelings one might have going through this time period to date. The public and media are calling us heroes or superheroes or otherwise putting us on a pedestal. Management is calling us the same while sometimes even screaming at us if we are not reusing our PPE enough (and I do mean screaming!). Uninvolved staff calling us “filthy” and “dirty” and sometimes screaming at us if we got too close to them or were out of the zippered unit because we were caring for the infected. How do you think I felt? How do you think my coworkers who were also providing care felt? How would you feel if you were in our shoes?

~149 of our residents survived (99%); only a literal handful went to the hospital with only one ending up temporarily on a ventilator. This was all before the experimental (there are zero mRNA vaccines on the market and please research why in several decades of the technology existing the FDA never approved this technology for vaccines) vaccines (which are not yet FDA approved at the time this article is being written) were available for emergency use (EUA).

Today there are a number of doctors and nurses who survived several waves of COVID-19 while being on the front-line; myself included. Some of us were infected (all those infected recovered) some of us were not infected. Those of us making the decision to never (under any circumstances whatsoever) get the vaccines (and never get it includes if they become FDA approved, are mandated, etc. — again never means never) are now being called other names than “filthy” and “dirty.”

From the end of 2019 until today (and who knows how long this madness will continue — and I say madness because it is cherry-picking without doing homework, asking questions, or using skills), you hear and read the words, “follow the science.” Follow the science… since when can a person who is not infected infect those around them? The answer is that it cannot happen. Yet, if you don't get the vaccine, you are called “selfish” and “inconsiderate,” “ignorant,” a “moron” and other foul words.

People are forgetting the very foundations of patient-centered care which involves , respecting the patient's decisions on their autonomy without being judgmental, that the medical ethic of non-maleficence (FIRST, do no harm) comes before the medical ethic of beneficence (do good) for a reason (i.e. that the provider's idea of “do good” doesn't become paternalism that almost always causes harm and therefore breaks nonmaleficence). Our patients don't need to fill out exemption paperwork, explain themselves, etc. when it comes to saying no to any medication or treatment; they just say no, and we as healthcare professionals respect them and their decision without judgment. We as healthcare workers need to have those same rights; we are after all just as human as our patients and these are human rights!

Just as we were being judged while caring for the infected (screamed at if we didn't re-use PPE to the expectations of management — forget “follow the science” in that regard), screamed at by those coworkers refusing to step up and provide care for the infected as being “filthy” and “dirty” (they were also forgetting to follow the science), and now having the general public go from calling us superheroes and being so thankful we stepped up to provide care for the infected, often their loved ones now being called selfish, stupid, morons because we refuse vaccines that do not prevent infection, transmission and whose long-term side effects will not be known for several decades… hmmm, how do you think we feel? How would you feel?

As for myself, while recalling all of this saddens me, I continue to do my job. My employers know I will never get any of these vaccines. I continue to be tested for COVID-19 (sometimes several times per week), and I continue to test negative. Even though this is a hard time period for all of us, I remain positive God has a plan for me, and I will trust in Him.

Oh hi there 👋 It's nice to meet you.

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