Hot Zone

The official word is things are getting better in Connecticut as far as COVID goes.  We continue to slowly decline from our December high.  The governor has lifted the sports pause so my daughter is back having full scrimmages with her regional basketball team, although her middle school has cancelled their basketball season.  My wife who works at the VA has been vaccinating older veterans at a frenetic clip, but statewide there is not enough vaccine yet to meet the demand.  I am one of the lucky 1% that has received both doses, and just 7% of our citizens have received their first dose.

I am quite glad I have been vaccinated because at least on the days I work, I have been running into many patients who either have COVID or are good candidates for COVID.  I have often thought that the people working in the ICU have it the toughest as far as witnessing the emotional toll of COVID, watching their patients slowly struggle and die or weaken severely.  In EMS, we say good bye to our patients when we leave them at the ED.  Where we have it worse in my opinion is the risk for exposure.  Back in the spring most of the COVID patients were in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes and prisons, all places where the scenes are easily controlled and the transfer is usually as simple as entering a room and placing the patient on your stretcher.  Now it seems the COVID is almost all in the community.  This week, I did a patient with COVID who was three hundred pounds, wedged in a bathroom, with altered mental status, and with much body fluid no longer in the body.  His wife also had COVID, and while she had her mask on, his had fallen down his chin.  I had my N95 face mask, face shield, gown and gloves on.  But I was with this patient for an extended time in a cramped space trying to extricate him.  Picking him up and getting out of the bathroom, and onto a stair chair and then navigating down cramped stairs with a bookcase at the bottom that partially blocked our path, was difficult and involved prolonged close physical contact.  Add to this, as in many scenes, random maskless family members and neighbors appearing out of nowhere, wanting to know what is going on, or help, or merely say hi and goodbye to the patient.

Follow that with a naked maskless patient on PCP screaming to the demons in his head while we wrestled him onto the stretcher, a secretary at a health clinic, who admits she has a fever, and doesn’t have a mask, and for some reason is getting a nebulizer when you walk into the room without any report beyond there is a sick employee, the assault victim lying bloodied on the sidewalk without a mask, crazy with rage and pain, the seizing patient in an apartment hallway.  I have come to realize that every scene today is a hot zone, not just the ones where dispatch warns you to use precautions following their dispatch screen.  Not everyone has COVID, but many admit to having exposure to people who have COVID. I wear my PPE, even though it is uncomfortable and I still can’t see out of the face shields half the time.

I marvel that COVID has not knocked me down yet.  Sometimes I think I had it in February, other times I wonder if I was asymptomatic, and the rest, I just have to admit if I didn’t have it, the damn PPE sure works.  Still I am grateful to be vaccinated, because after the last couple shifts, I have to believe COVID is not close to being defeated yet.

Get Vaccinated.  Wear you PPE  Be safe all.