Sunday, March 29, 2020

There Are No Emergencies During a Pandemic

My sister is a floor nurse at a local hospital and is on the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic. Mom and I keep checking in on her, knowing that, right now, work isn't just physically draining but also emotionally exhausting for her and everyone she works with.

The hospitals protocols are changing almost daily, with new information and as they prepare for the onslaught of COVID patients. One of the things that's in the news right now is the need for ventilators and for N95 masks. N95 masks are a certain kind of mask that keeps out the smallest particles and are the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep health care workers from getting sick while treating COVID patients. They are in short supply right now. And then there are the ventilators — hospitals want to have on hand significantly more ventilators than they usually own for this epidemic. This has been a point of much discussion in the news, with people speculating why hospitals would need so many more ventilators. I mean, other flu varieties don't require this many people to be ventilated, why now?

Kristi explained in a phone call with our mother and I, and here's the reason:

There are no emergencies during a pandemic. 

Nothing, not your loved one being unable to breathe or having a heart attack, is worth risking the lives of healthcare workers who are there to save them.

During normal times, if someone presented to the hospital in severe respiratory distress, they would be put on a bipap machine. It's like a c-pap machine that people use for sleep apnea, only with pressure on both the exhale and the inhale. Patients can be in a regular hospital room if they are on a bipap machine.


While someone is on a bipap machine their breath is aerosolized, airborne in the room for others to breathe in. Without enough N95 masks to protect health care workers, chances are high that those treating these patients will contract the virus.

If the person's breathing continues to worsen and their oxygen levels don't rise, then they are put on a ventilator, which is a much more serious intervention. The patient is heavily medicated because a tube is shoved down their throat. Without sedation, patients will try to grab at it to remove it,  possibly damaging the airway. During the intubation procedure of someone who has COVID, everyone in the room is highly at risk for being exposed to whatever virus or bacteria the patient may exhale, so personal protection equipment is essential. After the intubation, a machine breathes for the patient and they are typically in the ICU so their medication and oxygen levels can be closely monitored. It is not pleasant.

During the coming epidemic, hospitals are skipping the bipap stage and going straight to the ventilation stage. Why? One, because they don't want to expose their caregivers to the disease by aerosolizing the virus with bipap machines. Two, if the patient worsens, the care team will be frantically donning their protective equipment outside of the room while the patient is in distress, unable to breathe. By the time the care team is able to enter the room, the person may be unconscious, suffer irreparable brain damage from the lack of oxygen, or have died.

From a nurse who was on the front lines of fighting the Ebola epidemic: There are no emergencies during a pandemic.

There is no rushing into a room during a code blue, nurses and therapists surrounding a patient and providing life-saving care. There is no treatment without first taking precautions that the patient may — MAY — have COVID if any symptoms are present. Right now hospitals beds are being taken up by people who are waiting for test results to rule out COVID, since it currently takes 48 hours to get results back. Until a patient is known to NOT have the virus it is assumed they do, meaning that each time a nurse enters the room they must gown up appropriately. It takes much longer to care for patients now than when a pandemic isn't going on.

So yes, there is a shortage of ventilators. There is a shortage of N95 masks. And scientific data is behind all of the changes that hospitals are making to reduce mortality during this pandemic. Science and facts.

*NOTE: This was published with the input of my sister. It is not a reflection of her opinion or that of her employer, only mine.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Cooking During a Pandemic

Our house is out of chicken. I was low before the whole coronavirus/hoarding thing happened, and now all of the stores are out.

It is a main staple for me in my cooking, it is so versatile in all the ways you can prepare it. I've shopped multiple Cub Foods locations, my local Lund's, Wayne hit Costco, and no one has any. We are not dark meat eaters, all those chicken thighs can just sit in the case.

I'm so bummed. And kids couldn't be happier.

"Chicken this, chicken that," they would say. They are thrilled. No chicken during the entire quarantine! Hooray for them!

Both Wayne and I picked up cuts we normally wouldn't pick up. Pork tip roast. New-to-us cuts of beef. Turkey tenderloins.

And tonight, I roasted a pork tip roast with a dry rub recipe I selected from

As it roasted the house filled with its aroma. It drifted from the kitchen through the entire lower level, up the stairs and finally to the closed bedroom doors of the two teenagers. They finally came downstairs wondering, "What smells so good?"

This stuff, oh yeah.

Even my non-pork eater ate two slices of this roast at dinner, it was that good.

Later this evening, at a virtual happy hour via Google hangouts, my friends and I kept looking for silver linings in what's going on right now.
  • More acceptance from corporations to accommodate work-from-home arrangements.
  • Insurance companies finally accepting and paying for telehealth appointments. (Yay progress!)
  • Unity across our entire country regardless of party.
  • Universal focus on what's important in life: Family. Relationships. Love.
These are crazy times. The last pandemic of this size was in 1918. The Spanish flu took 50 million lives worldwide — its mortality rate was 10%. The coronavirus has a mortality rate of 1%, nowhere near as deadly. And yet, if 70% of Americans get it, 2.5 million people will die.

Let's not go there.

So please, stay safe, stay home, love your family, and eat all the random sh*t you can buy. Except this stuff. I would be hard pressed to buy this, even with the enticement of bacon.

Good Minnesotans never take the last one. Anyone? Anyone?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

We Interrupt Daily Life for This Important Message

  • Don't touch your face.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from everyone around you.
  • Do not shake hands or hug or touch anyone else.
  • If you feel sick, stay home.
  • If you believe you've been infected, call the Covid-19 hotline at 800-HOLYSHT.

The past two weeks have been unprecedented in my lifetime. I've never seen such a fearful response to a virus, to the point that we are indeed in a pandemic, complete with panic-buying and supply hoarding.

It started in Wuhan, China, moved to London, then to Washington State. Now it's in 39 of our 50 states.

It's the flu.

It's a respiratory sickness, one that is worse than usual, and people who are immuno-compromised or have respiratory issues in general are at high risk, as are the very old and the very young.

Markets have crashed. Whole industries (cruises, travel, airlines) have been practically shut down. Grocery stores have been emptied.
Local retailers at kiosks closed their businesses at Southdale Mall. National retailers still open but mostly empty. 

Our local Walgreens, all paper products and hand sanitizer are out of stock.
Local grocery store. No onions? I think we can live without onions...
And as of today, Marissa's school is closed for the next THREE weeks. Three — two for quarantine time and one for their regularly scheduled spring break which they can't possibly cancel in case some families still plan to make the trips they had planned previously. Which is not advised, but you can't stop people from going.

No word yet from Lindsey's online high school, which, I suspect, will be business as usual since it's 100% remote anyway. Wayne's company is asking everyone to work remotely starting tomorrow as well.  And I, well, I work for myself part-time out of the house anyway, so there's no change there.

Which means...we're gonna have a full house. Except Wayne volunteered to be the only person physically in the Minneapolis office, to bring in the mail and what-not. He will be there by himself, because, as he told his boss, they would have to "pry my cold, dead hands off my office to get me to work from home." That's how much he was looking forward to attempting to be efficient and work while at home with his family.

I've never seen a societal response of this kind to a flu warning. Don't get me wrong, I'm not downplaying the illness, but the human response to it appears over-the-top. As public health officials say, if we do our jobs in hindsight it will look like over-reaction. If we don't, well then, buckle up, we're all in for a ride.

I mean...why are people just NOW buying hand soap? Don't we all normally have hand soap in our homes? Do people not normally wash their hands often? To make sure a family doesn't run out of hand soap for a three-week period you may need three, four bottles of hand soap tops. So...why are people buying cases of it? Don't get me on the toilet paper hoarding. That seems like such an American response.

One family meant to purchase 48 rolls of toilet paper through Amazon but accidentally ordered 48 cases, so now they've got enough toilet paper for a small village. Or for their family for the next 3 years, however they choose to use it.

I went grocery shopping this past Monday and got everything I needed for the week. I bought toilet paper at the grocery store (which I usually don't do) because Costco was out the last time I was there; I hadn't thought anything of it at the time. By Friday, grocery stores were emptied, their shelves silent witnesses to the scramble of the early morning crowd who had emptied them of their contents, snatching toilet paper and disinfectant wipes from each other's hands in a frenzy.

Here's the most frustrating part for me. We have two beautiful, wonderful, amazing daughters whom I love dearly who both also have mental health issues. Lindsey has thrived in her Normandale College classes. She's back in a traditional classroom, interacting with "real" people and loving the social engagement. She is always more excited to work on those classes homework than her online high school courses because she has to be prepared for the next class discussion. Now, one of her college classes is moving online for the rest of the semester, and there's a strong possibility that her other college class will as well. Her spring break was last week, but classes are suspended this coming week as well due to the coronavirus.

Most college students would be thrilled — YES! No more slogging to class, sitting in classrooms, having to work on group projects and talk to other people. Lindsey, on the other hand, is incredibly disappointed. This was her only social interaction outside of family, her only necessary trip out of the house three times a week. She enjoyed talking with the other students, she loved the debates and discussions. And now they are canceled.

And then there's Marissa, my social butterfly. The thought of not seeing her myriad of friends in person for three weeks is devastating to her. What will she do when she can't joke with her friends between classes, chat at lunch and give hugs? She loves to hug her friends. She is an incredibly genuine, kind-hearted girl who is always thinking of others. She is going to wither under three weeks of distance relationships.

I, in the meantime, continue to work away at my various projects, do housekeeping duties and guide my girls in their daily lives. I can understand why Wayne wouldn't want to be at home when everyone else is home. When he's working, he is 100% focused on work. I rarely call him at the office, he is there to be efficient and get things done so he can get home. He will probably have an amazing two weeks at work with no one else there! Such an introvert.

We'll see how all of this develops. In the meantime, stay healthy, stay away from others, and cough into your elbow, not into your hand.