Reporting from Poland while maintaining social distance

I think it was my microbiology professor at Loyola who said something along the lines of, “microbes will be the end of us…take over the world and make us go extinct”. Or something like that. Scary, huh? Do I think that COVID-19 is the end of the road for humanity? No, no, no. I absolutely do not say this to strike fear. Do not be afraid, but do have healthy concern. Infections have been occurring since the beginning of time. Ever since humans landed on earth, ever since the moment you as an individual were born, “germs” is the form of viruses, bacteria, fungi, you name it, have been trying to take over your body. Please let me remind you… Life is such a miracle. The balance is fragile on a good day, let alone when a pandemic novel virus with the ability to swamp your health care system and someone’s lungs is on the loose. If you weren’t a germaphobe before, you might be now! Sorry. I, for one, am not. Germs are part of life! This is nothing new. Thankfully we’ve survived long enough as a race to have learned a thing or two. We’ve seen pandemics before, we are wiser because of them. We know a whole lot more about viruses, and the diseases they cause. We have come millions of miles in this understanding and in advances in modern medicine. So now we are able to prevent, treat, and cure many, many, many of them. Do not be afraid of COVID-19. Do trust the experts who know what they’re doing and are pleading for everyone’s cooperation right now. Does this sound dramatic? Well, its March, and there is no March Madness. This is dramatic times.

Illness is nothing new. However, the whole entire world is so much more connected now, that whereas before, it might have been relatively easy to isolate an outbreak, now, an easily transmitted disease can spread like wildfire. All it takes is a few intercontinental trips on an airplane, a couple of handshakes, a trip to the grocery store, bada-bing, bada-boom. Pandemic. Ok, it might be a little more complicated. But really, six degrees of separation equals six degrees of coronavirus. As we have seen in the past few months, and escalating over the past few weeks, its growth has been exponential and we’ve arrived at the point of social shut down within a matter of days. I’m in shock. You’re in shock. But snap out of it. There is no more time to watch what is happening. It is time to act. Healthcare is a resource, and like all resources it is finite. From the looks of it, we are about to be depleted unless we all take action.


Because we are so globally connected, we can see what is going on live in other parts of the world where, unfortunately, tragically, communities have been overwhelmed. As a registered professional nurse, my heart and soul is with these people. Like, I want to be there to help. Its a hard thing to watch. The only thing I can do right now, is help by keeping myself and my family at home for a while, so that we can do our microscopically small part to stop the spread. So should you. And keep washing your hands. Healthcare workers, patients, families and their friends and neighbors in their communities are bearing the burden of being the example that we all need to look at and learn from.

I know how scary it is to have to wait just minutes for a ventilator to be transported to the bedside of a patient who can no longer breathe without mechanical assistance. I know how exhausting it is to be understaffed and overworked. Not ideal, but not anything new, there’s been a nursing shortage for years…decades? It apparently isn’t going to get better. A normal nurse in the ICU would take care of 1-2 patients at a time. A normal nurse on a regular floor might ideally take 3-5. I’ve had up to 7 and it was a nightmare. If the nurse to patient ratio becomes too much, it becomes dangerous. Errors are made, care of the individual suffers, because there is simply only so much one person can do. Nurses are some of the hardest working, most selfless people you will ever know. I know this because of the dozens and dozens, of nurses I have had the privilege to work beside, across, back, up and down the great USA. A nurse in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force. We work work work to take care of you and yours, and then we crash. Whether that’s staring at the ceiling for a day after working multiple 12 hour shifts in a row, or breaking down in the med room because you just ran out of give. I won’t get started on vital equipment shortages. I’ve seen a lot of mention of this in the news already.

Poland closed its borders at midnight Sunday. I received the above email from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw in my inbox on Friday evening, outlining everything that has been mandated to be shut down by the Polish government. I’m proud of this country for acting swiftly and drastically. Bold moves get results. We are well-equipped to socially distance ourselves for a while. Well, except for Max, apparently. Who, in a well-timed act of defiance threw a roll of toilet paper in to the toilet yesterday. We had to cancel a weekend trip to Germany this weekend, and our big trip to Scotland in April has been postponed. Disappointing, yes, but I’m keeping my eye on the greater good.

I hope hope hope that this huge spotlight on the prevention and spread of illness carries over to a reduction in overall cold and flu cases each year. I hope more people will wash their hands and stay home when sick. I hope we all enjoy this slower time at home and learn to be content not being on the go-go-go all the time (confession, despite my adventuresome spirit, I have major homebody tendencies). I hope this carries beyond healthcare and we realize how precious and fragile and connected this planet is and start taking better care of it, too. I hope everyone finds childcare and the resources they need to get through this weird time. I hope our stocks and businesses recover. They will. Lets everyone do our part so we can get back to normal. Lets focus on the good. Trust the doctors, nurses, researchers, epidemiologists and public health officials who know their stuff and are asking us to sacrifice now for the greater good of humankind later. Open your eyes and heart to whats happening in other countries right now. Act from a place of compassion. This won’t last forever and I’m sure we will look back and thank ourselves for the time we spent in battle. I know I will. Lets act swiftly. Because we still have a lot of Europe that we want to explore!!!


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