Random Thoughts

What Gift Can I Give for Stressed, Overworked Hospital Workers?

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Just before Christmas, I heard a doctor at a hospital in Houston, Texas, USA being interviewed on the radio. At that time, he had worked over 270 days straight, catching naps on cots at the hospital. We know that hospital staff – doctors, nurses, social workers, aides, housekeepers, custodians, maintenance – is bearing the brunt of the effects of this virus. I wondered, “How can I show my appreciation for their wonderful work?”

Hmm, I thought. What about a gift of flowers to my local hospital to brighten up the day for the staff? Or perhaps some candy to give them a moment of respite. Or a nice card expressing my appreciation for their work?

No, I realized the best possible gift I could give to the hospital staff is to stay home. If I must go out, I wear my mask, stay at least six feet away from others and wash my hands often.

My wife Judy and I had a quiet Christmas at home. We roasted a chicken, had potatoes and gravy, a vegetable, a salad. And a coconut cream pie. We stayed home. And we still had the requisite leftovers.

We did not travel. We did not have older daughter or grandchildren to our house, nor did we travel the 7.1 miles to their house. We stayed home. We did not travel 85 miles to our son’s family in Raleigh. We stayed home.  We did not fly 3,000 miles to the younger daughter’s family in Washington State – the ones we haven’t seen for over a year and a half.  We stayed home. While it isn’t entirely satisfying, the children and grandchildren are a phone call or a computer connection away.

Do you want to show hospital staff, especially the direct-care medical personnel, that you are grateful for their self-sacrifice?  Do you want to do anything you can to help the staff do their job?  Stay home. If you must go out, use a delivery service, take-out or curbside service, if they are available. Don’t congregate with people from outside your household.  As always, wear a mask. Try to keep at least six feet away from others – which is difficult to do in a store.

It is important to take care of yourself during this time of staying at home. The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) published the following helpful easy-to-understand graphic:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/mental-health/General-Public-Care-for-Yourself.pdf

If you like the science or want to read a good readable summary, the University of California at San Franscisco published a very readable summary of what is known about COVID-19 and steps to prevent its transmission to you and to others, dated June 26, 2020 and updated July 11.  For my readers for whom English is not their primary language, this report also comes in Chinese, Spanish and Russian.  https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417906/still-confused-about-masks-heres-science-behind-how-face-masks-prevent

And then for residents of the State of North Carolina in the United States, the North Carolina State Department of Health and Human Services Director Mandy Cohen, M.D., M.P.H., is very concerned about the sky-rocketing trends and is strongly encouraging people to tighten up their behavior in North Carolina, USA.  In a Secretary’s Directive dated January 6, 2021, she wrote with the support of Governor Cooper: https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/NCDHHS-Secretarial-Directive-January-6-2021.pdf

If you are still with me after all that above, I engage in some personal practices as well that are supported by many of the documents listed above:

  • I avoid people with masks that have valves in them.  These are one-way valves that cause the incoming air to be filtered through the fabric for the wearer, but the valve causes outgoing air to spew out the person’s breath without filters. However, I know one woman with severe breathing problems who has valved masks. She has a filter on the outgoing part of the valve to better protect others.
  • I avoid people with one-layer “gaters” – a cloth neckwear that a person pulls up over the face as needed.  The one-layer type doesn’t really filter but ends up turning the person’s outgoing breath into micro-droplets that carry farther.  And no, I don’t know how to tell the difference between a one-layer type and a two-plus-layered type from looking at them.
  • I saw informal testing (on television and not with rigorous scientific testing) for the different types of masks and whether they hold water or if a person could disturb a candle flame by blowing through the mask.  One terrible mask they demonstrated was one that doesn’t do anything.  It did not hold water in any manner and a person could blow the candle right through the mask with no problem.  It is advertised as looking like a mask so others think you are wearing a mask, but it doesn’t impede one’s breathing at all.  That is just wrong.  That defeats the purpose of masks entirely and does nothing to protect the wearer nor the persons around them. It is deceitful.
  • Too many people have the masks on their mouth but have their nose exposed. Most of a person’s breathing is through the nose. Also, the virus resides in the sinuses, which is why the samples for the tests for the coronavirus are taken with a long-handled swab through the nose.  I have almost always had a good response when I meet the person’s eyes with mine and just gesture with my index finger up the bridge of my nose. The gentle reminder always gets through, and they adjust their mask accordingly.  I don’t concern myself with those who are some distance away and are not likely to come near me. I’ve had no negative response so far, but it may because I’m a white 70-year-old male with white hair.

In summary, let’s do our part in showing our appreciation for the hospital workers and their dedicated work by not having to be wheeled in on a gurney with COVID-19 symptoms.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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