This is an excerpt from a message Georgia Orchowski, RN, a nurse in the Emergency Department at Rush University Medical Center, recently shared with friends
First and most importantly, I cannot thank everyone enough for everything. I have been completely overwhelmed by the love and kindness I have been shown over the past few weeks. Every single gesture — a call, message, gift, coffee, meal, etc., is appreciated. I don’t feel worthy of any of it because nursing is something I have been doing for 12 years. It’s a part of who am. I would never think twice about being a part of the movement to care for America as more and more of us fall ill. It’s honestly an honor to know I can make a real difference in such a time of despair.
A couple thoughts as I reflect on what I’ve seen over the past few weeks for anyone reading.
No. 1 is please, please don’t panic. Fear gets you nowhere. We all know what we need to do to stop the spread — stay at home, wash your hands, etc. But your mental health is also so important. Stop reading so much COVID news. Take time for your mental health. Find something that brings you joy each day. Read for pleasure, meditate, exercise, have a glass of wine, watch Netflix. Get outside every single day. Stop reading so much COVID news! The world is not ending. This too shall pass.
Be kind to one another. It’s OK to still smile and wave when you pass people (six feet away) when you’re out walking the dog. Send a note in the mail to someone who might appreciate it. FaceTime friends or family members every day. Think about someone who might be lonely and reach out to them. Donate to a local food bank. If you’re reading this, you are probably in a lot better position than a lot of our country right now. So many have lost their jobs, are without paychecks, or have children home without food to eat. Let’s give what we can. Let’s take care of each other.
Do your part to not overwhelm our medical centers. Things are escalating quickly, and soon we will all be overrun with critically ill patients. Call your doctor if you think you have symptoms of coronavirus. If you think you do, honestly at this point you probably do. We have extremely limited testing supplies. They need to be saved for the elderly, immunocompromised, homeless and pregnant. If you have are having trouble breathing, come to the emergency room and we will help you immediately. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat or fatigue, you can probably help yourself at home.
Lastly, practice gratitude. Think about all that you have to be thankful for: a warm home, family, children, food to eat. Each day that I wake up and don’t feel sick I consider a gift. Each day that I get to work with the most incredible team of nurses and doctors, I feel beyond grateful. Thank you for reading, and take care of yourselves.
I know there’s a lot of fear right now with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, and there’s even more fear when we start talking about shutting down schools and closing restaurants and taking a lot of measures to do social distancing.
But I think that should be our message of hope today. Social distancing actually works, and it is our best defense right now against this rising epidemic in our country.
Many people feel like we’re overreacting by closing schools and restaurants and not going to the movies, but actually it is our best hope for really making a change in the curve of acceleration of this illness in our country.
Braden Hexom, MD, is an emergency physician at Rush University Medical Center, which is preparing for a sharp increase in patients with COVID-19. He shared the following tips about the coronavirus.
Here are my recommendations for those of you wondering what you should do about COVID-19. I won’t go over the obvious — just my thoughts from a week on the inside. Hopefully there’s something useful in here:
None of you should want to come to get a coronavirus test. Simply standing in line puts you at risk. Especially if you are currently healthy and don’t need to be there. Getting a test shouldn’t change anything about how you prepare or act in the next few weeks.
Don’t come to the ER unless you are HAVING AN EMERGENCY. That means you are having difficulty breathing or you can’t keep down any food or water. If you have a cough, sore throat, or feel crummy, you already know what to do. You don’t need an ER for that. Call your doctor. Better yet, call your mom.
If you do have concerns or questions, do a video visit. Many large medical centers are doing these now. Your local public health office likely already has a hotline or process for fielding questions. Use them.
Stop buying toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes in bulk. Someone else needs those, and it’s probably not you. If you have a sink and soap, you have all you need.
Rethink your flu shot for next year. Chances are, if you have a cough, you may actually just have the flu, which is still widely present. You might have not had it altogether if you’d received your flu shot. And next year’s flu may be worse than this year’s coronavirus. We never know, that’s why we keep on working to make these better, every year. Whatever you are afraid of by not getting the flu shot is nothing compared to this.
Have honest, open discussionswith your children, family, older parents, etc. I’ve found that some of the best conversations I’ve had about the current pandemic have been with my kids. And we all need each other right now, especially when we’re asking everyone to shrink their community to the bare minimum. Make sure your kids are reassured. Check on your older relatives and make sure they have food.
Buckle up for a longer period of uncertainty than you are used to. I don’t know what next week will look like. It might be better. It might be worse. It will be like trying to buy the right stock right now. Just relax, slow your life down, enjoy the moments you are having with your loved ones or simply at home. Read a good book.
If you get seriously ill, we are here for you. But the only way I do my job at the top of my abilities is if you are truly sick. If I’m spending most of my day counseling you on why you don’t need a coronavirus test, then I’m not helping the ones who might be standing behind you in the screening line with an oxygen saturation of 79%.
At a time when people across Chicagoland are feeling anxiety about the coronavirus spread, we find ourselves reflecting on work to design a hospital that would stand ready to support Chicago in times of great need. It was 15 years ago that we first crafted the strategies that led to the opening of the iconic hospital building at Ashland and the Eisenhower in 2012.
People often reflect on the interesting design of the building. But they don’t often get to see much of the functionality that we designed into it. One of the many aspects of the design is the preparedness for pandemic scenarios that might lead to large surges in potentially infected patients and provide an environment that protects both patients and the staff working in the building.
In the emergency department, the ambulance drop-off bays can convert into a large-scale decontamination zone, and the emergency room itself was built to expand its bed capacity by more than two and a half times its normal capacity.
Computerized controls allow physicians and nurses to alter the airflow in the emergency room to create special surge isolation capacity if a serious contagion was identified. And in the Brennan Pavilion, columns can turn into patient care locations in the case of a true emergency scenario.
The sophisticated air-handling control continues in the hospital’s bed tower. In fact, if you look at the butterfly-shaped top half of that building, a quarter of that building at a time can be converted from the normal, everyday air handling of typical hospital units to special, large-scale isolation capacity to again provide an environment that maximally protects both patients and staff.
It stands as an important component of preparedness for Chicagoans and one of those things that you build thinking (and hoping) that you may never need it. But in times like these, we’re glad to know it’s there.
Anthony Perry, MD, is vice president of ambulatory transformation at Rush University Medical Center.