We Will Still Be Here
Though it has been almost two years since the start of the pandemic, the news regarding COVID-19 is especially discouraging these days. Was it only seven months ago, in June 2021, that daily infections, according to the CDC, were down almost 95 percent from January 2021? By any measure, these were incredibly impressive statistics and a direct result of the vaccines that had become widely available. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.
It had been an exciting time for nurses, especially those of us who were involved in providing the injections. How amazing it was to be part of the historic teams helping to eradicate the scourge of COVID-19. It was the best of times for so many of us as people clamored for vaccines, and we lined up to administer them. At one point, our hospital-based clinics were providing over 2,000 vaccines a day, every shot in the arm a shot of hope for all of us. And, as the numbers of the vaccinated rose, our confidence did as well. But, as it turned out, news of the pandemic’s demise was premature.
By mid-summer, as the Delta variant spread quickly among the unvaccinated and COVID infection numbers began to rise once again, the optimism that medical workers held in June faded first to disbelief and frustration, and then to a simmering anger as ICU and hospital beds were filled once again by COVID patients.
In September 2021, the roller coaster ride continued when the number of COVID cases slowly declined as more than 75 percent of Americans had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. We were certain, once again, that the worst was behind us.
But the more easily transmitted Omicron variant arrived just in time for the holidays. And, though it appears less deadly, the number of cases following the holidays soared into 2022, and hospitals buckled over the strain.
The pandemic, which I’d so believed would bridge divides among us, has instead only deepened them. We are a nation taking sides. And this fissure, this frustration, includes medical professionals, doctors, and nurses alike. There are days it feels as if we are butting our collective heads against the wall. We didn’t need to be here. We shouldn’t be here. And yet we are. We feel helpless against this new onslaught, this Omicron variant that is wreaking havoc in so many parts of our country. Hospitals are understaffed. Nurses and other staff have given up and left their jobs, unwilling and unable to take up the fight once more. We are caught in a rising tide of death and disease, and surrounded by those who feel immune from the virus’s vagaries. When they finally reach for a hand, we will do our best to lift them up to safety. But it may be too late. And for those of us trying to help, these days are disheartening and depressing.
Although we have long since tired of this endless battle, we are, it seems, still in the thick of the fight. There are some days it is all we can do to keep our heads and our spirits up.
But we will. We are nurses and physicians and ancillary staff committed to seeing this through to the end. And, despite it all, we will still be here.
Copyright © 2022 Roberta Gately
Roberta Gately, a nurse, novelist, and former humanitarian aid worker, has provided medical care from Africa to Afghanistan. She has written extensively on the subject of refugees for The Journal of Emergency Nursing as well as a series of articles for the BBC World News Online and the Huffington Post. Gately lives in Boston where she works as a nurse at The Boston Medical Center. Her two previous novels, Lipstick in Afghanistan and The Bracelet were followed by a memoir, Footprints in the Dust. Gately’s fifth novel, Her Mother’s Cry, a book in the Jessie Novak mystery series, was released in November of 2021.