I am a registered nurse in Cattaraugus County and a former infection-control nurse, and have been in the profession for 10 years.
I contracted COVID-19 on my first day back to work after a prolonged maternity leave. I had long conversations with my husband about the well-being and safety of myself and my family before deciding that I was ready to return to work during the pandemic.
During my first (and now last) shift back, I was hyper-diligent with all infection-control protocols. In my role, I was instructing an enthusiastic, ready to learn, group of students at Olean General Hospital. I was excited to be back.
On my 50-minute drive home, I thought about all of the steps I took to keep myself, my students and their patients safe. When I came home to my family I was masked, said a quick hello and proceeded to scrub up, change and disinfect appropriately.
Three days later, I was hit — hit hard with COVID-19 symptoms. As of this writing, I was on day seven of running high fevers, sweating, shaking, terrible headaches and loss of taste and smell. I am isolated in the bedroom of our 1,000-square-foot, single-story home.
My husband is working as a teacher from our kitchen table while simultaneously being a full-time dad to our 4-year-old and 1-year-old sons.
Miraculously, the other members of my family tested negative. I will be isolated from them for several more days, and we will be quarantining as a family for several more weeks.
The only way our baby will sleep is if I nurse him at night. I have to scrub up, change all of my clothes, don clean gloves, and put on a N95 mask to safely feed our baby. My husband and boys go outside so we can look at each other through the window and blow kisses each day.
Regularly, my husband and I are a team, and right now I cannot help him and our children. Explaining to our 4-year-old that he cannot open my bedroom door without causing him fear and anxiety is not an easy task.
Needless to say, COVID is real. Aside from recovering from my illness, the effects are numerous.
I know that I am not the only case of COVID-19 contracted on that day. This knowledge should not be kept quiet. My question is, if testing is readily available, why aren’t we doing it?
I beg hospital facilities to test their staff and patients regularly, asymptomatic or not. A temperature screening at the door is not enough. This is a crisis; please treat it like one.
As a community, we must be transparent. People need to speak up. We have so much more knowledge about this virus than we did back in March, we must use it.
To my fellow nurses and healthcare workers out there, stand up for your health, be a good nurse to yourself, call the health department and get a test.
You will NOT be sorry.