A Christmas Cold, Rule Out COVID

Sargent | Venetian Interior

“While this season might be more muted for many of us than ever before, it’s also more important than ever before that we allow ourselves to get quiet, fall apart, grieve as necessary, look inside, and get replenished, as that is possible…As we walk into 2021, we are still facing the reality of a great deal of rupture. Yet, this rupture is not the only reality and it is not the shape of forever.

How do we get grounded inside ourselves so that as the world opens up again, and we open up again to each other, we stay true to all we’ve been learning this year. So that we walk towards the kinship that has revealed itself even across every fracture. So that we seek and offer accompaniment towards the long but life-giving work of remaking our world around what is essential and generative and healing.”

\\ Krista Tippett (Midwinter Gathering, December, 2020)

A Christmas Cold, Rule Out COVID

It was mid winter and the respiratory floor had a cold; the cold winds were creeping underneath the doors. Coming down the hospital halls, I was pushing a cart and passing out medicine cups full of red cough syrup like it was Christmas, to patients diagnosed with the same sickness.

Almost four inches thick, my med-surg textbook oddly labeled these patients pink puffers and blue boaters, illustrated by a distinct tripod body position as they tried to catch a breath by leaning forward, their outstretched hands on their knees, a malady compounded of anxiety, discomfort, and dread.

Their designated blue and pink color had nothing to do with their gender. This was not labor and delivery, although incentive spirometers sitting on every bedside table rattled like a baby toy with every deep sigh and inspiration.

These intensive care patients were literally blue because they could not get air in, or they were literally pink because they could not get air out. Most commonly caused by years of cigarette smoking, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States; smokers will not be able to escape it, unless early on they kick the habit.

This is when Mrs. Green hit the nurse call light button and requested something to ease her communion with pain. I rushed to one side of the bed and asked, “Are you alright?” I fixed her a fabulous dose of elixir for Christmas, crippling the will of the sickly.

She closed her eyes and there were pink circles around them. I thought she was asleep, but when I spoke to her again she did not answer. She was a pink puffer on the verge of death, and 30 minutes later her breathing had dropped down to only a whisper, a dream that no longer had any existence in reality, and distant pleasant land, remote and secure, seemed more and more a safe haven. It was all strangely a part of the our existence and the most natural thing in our perishable world.

§tacy §weeney, RN