Nurse’s Letter to Gary and Shannon

This is the full text of letter sent by Kelsey, a neo-natal ICU nurse, to radio hosts Gary Hoffman and Shannon Farren (available at KFI 640 am and anywhere on the IHeartRadio app) and read on the air on December 18, 2020. 

I’m a neo-natal ICU nurse and my husband is a hospitalist, the doctor who admits and manages patients when they need to be in the hospital. The segments were wonderful to hear and generally quite uplifting. One person stuck with me in a way I haven’t been able to shake all day. I’m not sure what I really hope to get out of sending this email except maybe some peace about the pain in his voice.

At the end of the man’s call…he got choked up and simply said it’s hard to watch people die. His voice and his words hit home. I think that thanking healthcare workers for their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice is really wonderful. It feels good and is appreciated. It does seem to merit, however, framing on what we are thanking healthcare workers for doing.

We’re thanking healthcare workers for going to the hospital day after day and experiencing collective mass trauma. People die. Caring for them is our job. The difference is the volume and the support. People don’t typically die in these numbers for weeks on end without a clear end in sight. People who die in hospitals are typically supported by their family and friends at the bedside and that can’t happen right now. That means that nurses, doctors, nurse’s aids, respiratory therapists, etc., are filling in for family by being the person at the bedside, helping transition patients into their death.

We do this when a patient doesn’t have friends or family, but it’s not every death. And it’s not every death. And it’s not multiple times a day every single day. Regardless of the field in which we chose to work, it is always hard to watch someone die. It’s even harder when they were not ready to go and you can’t fulfill their dying wishes of being surrounded by loved ones.

The fact of the matter is, the people dying right now were infected before Thanksgiving. The people infected at Thanksgiving are in the hospital but not quite dying yet. That will happen right around Christmas. We can see what will happen in January into February. There aren’t really words to capture the fortitude of healthcare workers caring for Covid patients.

Your ask on the show was what can people do. The thank yous, the cards, the food, etc., are all really wonderful. They do have a positive impact. What helps the most is people wearing masks and not seeing people outside socially until we reach herd immunity with vaccination.

It sucks; I get it. But before the decision is made to not wear a mask or to get together socially, think about the healthcare workers who are suffering in order to care for those you love.

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