New York, NY – Not long after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, LaborPress began publishing the first-person experiences of a Intensive Care Unit nurse helping to treat Coronavirus patients inside a New York City hospital largely serving impoverished communities of color. Those heart-wrenching and harrowing accounts from the front lines of the Coronavirus crisis have now been collected in a new book from Hard Ball Press called A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary.
Hard Ball Press publisher Tim Sheard, himself a retired nurse and union organizer with the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, had already grown frustrated with the lack of media attention healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients were getting when he began his conversations with “Nurse T” — a veteran ICU nurse who agreed to talk to Sheard about the horrific environment she and her colleagues were being subjected to — but only on condition of anonymity.
“During the darkest days of the pandemic in NYC, I found that reports in the mainstream press were not doing justice to the courage and sacrifice of hospital workers,” Sheard says. “Nor did they adequately portray the fear and emotional trauma that these essential workers were undergoing.”
After sharing her observations and experiences with him, Sheard resolved to help “Nurse T” find her writing voice and put her stories into print. Hard Ball Press’ stated mission is to cultivate working class narratives and bring them to the widest audience possible. The resulting accounts are a gut punch — a raw, hard look at the day-to-day lives of healthcare workers who almost everyone expects to be super-heroic as a matter of course.
But in peering past the platitudes, A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary demonstrates just what the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has done and continues to do our healthcare heroes and heroines — working men and women who, regardless of their training and dedication, remain limited human beings who are being pushed past the breaking point.
Nurse T’s account of carpooling to work one cloudy, gray day this past spring — when the mortality rate for intubated ICU patients at her hospital was running at 50-percent — epitomizes both the intimate and unflinching nature of A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary. Not to mention its urgency.
“‘Much weeping in the heavens,’ Nurse T’s co-worker says as the two women pull up to the hospital.
As soon as they spy the roof of the hospital, Nurse M. breaks into tears. Nurse T. parks the car and sits silently, waiting for her friend to finish.
‘Ready?’ She finally says.”
And the two go inside to face down COVID-19, yet again.
A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary also illustrates the myriad ways COVID-19 has wrought havoc on the nation’s for-profit healthcare system. Shortages are commonplace. When simple sedatives are in short supply, Nurse T. recounts, intubated COVID patients routinely wake up terrified and tear out their breathing tubes.
Again, from A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary: “As Nurse T. yells for the doctors to come and re-tube the patient, she wonders how many self-extubations the patient can survive. The medical team hurriedly don their isolation PPE’s and rush into the cramped room, where they find the patient gasping open-mouthed, starving for air like a fish out of water.”
Much of the initial fear and frustration medical personnel were experiencing around the Coronavirus stemmed from how little was readily known about it. But by May, Nurse T. says that doctors at her hospital had already figured out that the virus Donald Trump and the rest of his right-wing enablers were attempting to dismiss as nothing more than a bad flu — was actually behaving like a venomous snake bite — triggering the body’s blood clotting mechanism and creating lethal blood clots “throughout the vascular tree.”
As of this writing, more than 13.5 million Americans are infected with COVID-19 — over 268,000 have died. Many more cases and deaths are expected as the forecasted “second wave” of Coronavirus tears through the country.
Says Sheard, “As the Covid-19 virus surges in New York and across the country, now, more than ever, citizens and policy makers need to grasp the terrible toll that the disease is taking on frontline workers, and they need to provide all the resources needed to protect workers from this scourge.”
A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary is available now, click here to purchase.