Jenny Middleswarth, ICU
At first, COVID-19 seemed so distant, unfamiliar, and unlikely, especially here in Eastern NC. As the weeks came and went, I quickly realized it was indeed in my community and patients were coming into the hospital sick with this very foreign disease. That was when everything got real. I started talking more with my children about the risk of the disease, so they understood why it was so important for us all to do our part to prevent its spread. I think everything really hit me when my daughter, who is eight, asked me “What if you and daddy get sick with the coronavirus?” My husband and I both work at the hospital… when your young, innocent child asks that question of you, it steals your breath. That moment is one I will not soon forget because it was a question I did not have an answer to.
Working in the Intensive Care Unit has been both scary and reassuring. There were many unknowns in the very beginning: What do we do when we respond to emergencies and intubate patients? How do we manage if we do not have enough PPE? What if one of our own gets sick? Now, we are like a well-oiled machine and we are greatly confident with what we need to do. Our associate manager, Melinda, has been awesome at keeping us informed and safe but she has also given us the space we need to vent concerns and frustrations.
My first time caring for a COVID-19 patient helped me more than I could have imagined. I began to reflect on the fact that these are the SAME patients we care for each and every shift, they just have a different disease process going on. In those first couple shifts I went from being afraid, to feeling confident I was safe and could safely care for my patients. More than ever before, I felt my heart strings pull as our patients could not see their loved ones and feel their love. I started coloring pictures on windows in the patients’ rooms and in the ICU common areas just to bring some ‘light’ into the environment.
Our ICU team has supported one another every step of the way through this process. The New Bern community should be proud of the staff they have in our hospital; we have not backed down, we have shown up, and we have been fully committed to getting everyone through this.
For me personally, it has been difficult to take on the role of homeschooling parent while managing my own schoolwork, working full-time, and helping my husband as he finishes up his nursing degree. I’ve learned to show grace to myself and to others, more now than I probably ever have. As I approach my tenth anniversary of being a nurse, I’ve never felt more like this is exactly where I am supposed to be.