The pandemic has pushed our health-care system to the brink. I see it every day as a nurse
On a sunny Tuesday morning in mid-April last year, I woke up with an itch in my throat. I had no other symptoms present. No shortness of breath, no headaches. I was supposed to be working an evening shift on my internal medicine unit where we care for COVID-19 patients.
Should I get tested? Should I notify my unit that I need to call in sick? My mind was racing. I felt anxious. Did I contaminate anyone at work or the people in my life? I did not want to catch COVID-19. I wanted to be in the fight against it … not become a victim of it. This was my worst fear.
Catching the virus has impacted my life ever since. I recovered, but I still have lingering effects. Lethargy, sudden waves of nausea and malaise are things that I have learned to cope and live with. It is not easy and many health-care professionals who have caught the virus have experienced varied symptoms that have affected their lives negatively, too.
When cases started to appear in Montreal, my unit was called upon to provide care to those infected. Our most vulnerable, of all ages and circumstances, came to the hospital to get treatment. We were short of personal protective equipment and staff members were becoming ill, but we continued to fight on with courage and perseverance.
The second wave is no different. It has been a challenging year for all of us in the health-care sector throughout Quebec. Many of us have put our personal health as well as that of our families in peril. The physical, mental and emotional burden of this sacrifice weighs heavily on each of us.
I remember the day I decided to get tested. I notified the important people in my life of the possibility that I was positive with COVID-19. I was an emotional wreck, I was feeling anxious, and guilty. I had to tell my girlfriend that it was a possibility that she had been infected.
We both understood the risk of this happening when I started working with symptomatic patients diagnosed with the virus. Her understanding during this difficult conversation and her unconditional support throughout this ordeal has given me strength to move forward with courage. I never wanted to expose the people I love and care about to a disease that is debilitating, life-altering and possibly fatal.
This thought resonates with many of my colleagues who work in health care here in Montreal and throughout the world. We come to work every day, prepared to give our best to the sick and disadvantaged, but increased hospitalizations have strained the system. Our hospitals are at capacity. Our critical care units are at capacity. Cases continue to rise despite lockdown and curfew measures.
We are all battling as hard as we can, but having members of the public be skeptical of what the reality is in the hospitals and nursing homes has led to anxiety and a fear among health-care workers that people will not respect the rules put in place by the government to decrease the amount of people contracting the virus.
We, as a society, need to comprehend that we are at a crucial edge where if we go over the limit in the hospitals, there is a possibility that we will not be able to care for our most vulnerable and our loved ones in an appropriate manner. It is essential that we bring down cases by respecting and adhering to the protocols put in place in Quebec and Canada.