For those working in the health care profession, life has been a nightmarish existence for the past 18 months. COVID-19, originally billed as an illness no more severe than the flu, has devastated America and most other world countries. Loss of life due to the virus has been astounding, often attacking the most vulnerable of our population. Now, more than 1 1/2 years later, the virus is still in our midst with the emergence of the Delta variant. This variant has proven to be more contagious than earlier forms, making victims of those individuals who remain unvaccinated either by choice or by unavailability.
Often health care workers who were and are serving on the front lines of this battle, our doctors, nurses, EMTs, etc., have physically and emotionally been pushed to the brink. Their lives, so greatly impacted by the pandemic, have been scarred by witnessing the deaths of loved ones or patients under their care. To somehow survive, they have tried to detach themselves from all the sadness that surrounds them. Emotions are set aside so that they can continue healing the sick and comforting the dying. They ask themselves why won’t the unvaccinated get vaccinated so that this all can be put behind us. Meanwhile, hospital beds are again filling up with COVID patients. Those political figures who hold seats of authority and influence should be promoting vaccination, but more often than not, are remaining silent on the issue. The politics of the day seemingly takes precedence over saving lives and halting the spread of COVID.
The burdens are numerous and weighty, and there appears to be no let-up. But the job of tending to the sick with compassionate care takes no break. The signs and shouts proclaiming you heroes have faded into the background, but still, the war rages on. You search for a lifeline that you can hold onto so that you can make some sense of all that has happened.
Where is this lifeline?
Within your body, synapses are flashing, and your heart is racing. You try to bottle up all your emotions so that you can perform your job, a job for which you have taken an oath to do no harm. But life is disjointed, and you try your best to separate what’s happening at work and what happens when you’re at home with family. Often this does not succeed.
In your mind, you question the choices you’ve made, the road taken that has led you to this particular point in time. You have been making sacrifice after sacrifice, but does anyone understand how worn and frustrated you are? You ask yourself, “Who am I? Where am I?”
Revisit the story of these times, the heartaches, and the successes. Revisit your story and what decisions and choices you have made to bring you to this moment in time. Revisit those motivational factors and goals that brought you to this career path. Are those fires still burning brightly within you? Lastly, revisit the stories of those who sit before you, those patients who are scared and anxious, hoping that you will help them get through this life-challenging situation. For them, you are indeed their heroes.
Always remember your humanity. You are not super-human. Make connections to your heart, to your mind, to others. Look closely at the situation that lies before you, listen carefully to all that is around you, and calm the pounding heart.
Dig deep within your psyche, ask the big questions, and most importantly, listen to the answers. Rediscover the reasons that have been your motivation, your driving force. Uncover those layers you have put in place for your protection to cushion against the harshness. Open your eyes. Open your heart. Your lifeline is within your grasp. This lifeline is tethered to your core, to those you care for, to those who care for you.
Once lost, you are now found. You are at equilibrium. You have found your way back.
Michele Luckenbaugh is a patient advocate.
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