Photographer | COVID | NURSE | NYC

It has been a month since my last blog (read it here) and what a month it has been. It’s hard to summarize all of the emotions. It’s hard to compile all the good and bad that I saw….

There will definitely be more attention paid to mental health once we all get over the covid hump. Luckily for me and our family, we’ve been blessed with covid-free symptoms. However, many of my friends from the hospital, weren’t so lucky. Here we are, expected to be the stronger ones for the patient and yet, we are melting down just like the patients. We are expected to be the wall and yet we are crumbing. Many friends got ill, many got through it with mild symptoms and got back to work, some were hospitalized, ended up being patients them selves. For me, I did the only thing I could do – reach out in nearly daily bases and say something that could potentially lead to a smile. There were days when I was lucky and get a response and other days – I hope when that friend is up for it – just smile. It’s so damn hard being alone but it’s harder to be lonely. I really hope that in all my CrayCrayKiness, I was successful to let my friends know that they aren’t alone… I care, the whole unit cares!!! Some of us, who not necessarily were sick physically, got sick mentally and emotionally.

NYC photographer nurse getting ready for work

Few weeks ago, it was a rough day at work. More than ⅓ of the staff are out sick, patients aren’t being discharged to rehabs or home, code after code, ICU management of patients on regular units, brake (on a typical day, 7a-7p, I take my brakes around 4p) – WHAT BRAKE?! Watching my 72yo pt gasping for air, already on the bipap and trying to tell his wife ‘its hard to breathe’. Then getting an admission, 46 yo on non-rebreather mask (FUCK ME, I’M 39 – IS this going to be me?! What will happen to my wife and kids?!). Nearly end of the day, I see transporters moving bodies to the morgue, not the regular, but THREE ice storage outside, body after body after body after body… finished the day, stayed for few extra hours bc night shift is short staffed. Get home at midnight with head full of thoughts. That was April 14th.

Next morning, went food shopping to stop & shop, Starbucks gave free coffee to me and Angela – that was cool. Then went to Costco and seems that RNs were allowed to skip the long line – that’s cool too. Came home, unloaded food shopping. And I checked out Facebook, one of those nursing groups. Someone asked about the worst they have seen and I answered then went into the bedroom and broke down.

I’ve been in photography/videography since mid 90s, the ol’ school where we had to learn the hard way, no such thing as quitting – you don’t ‘no show’ the assignment regardless how you feel. It’s something that I took to heart (I mean, number of years ago my grandma passed away and that night I was photographing a wedding; few years later the same was with my grandfather. Get into a car accident on Tuesday and full weekend of weddings back to back with fractured shoulder) – no such thing as getting sick bc you, as a photographer, are THE ONLY ONE who is to make sure that the memories are captured. If the food isn’t the best that day and florist didn’t have the colors discussed, the band or dj aren’t in happy mood – whatever it is, photographer has to ‘fix’ it and show that on the wedding day EVERYTHING was GREAT.

Take that into my nursing career. Feels like our unit turned into ICU waiting room, patients on ventilator (that’s easy to manage, because we are vent unit and I’m trained for that) but now there are nearly 10 pts per nurse and 6-8 of them (per nurse) are vented – that’s a bit stressful. Add the sedatives to keep patients from fighting the vent (GD forbid those run out, patients wake up and start fighting the vent, self extubating) but since they are in sedatives, they are now on meds to keep blood pressure up. So now we have to find that balance – keep patients sedated and yet with blood pressure high enough to adequately perfuse all of the organs. Ooo ooo, let’s add DKA to the mix and check blood sugars every hour and more iv meds from preventing patients turning into a body of acid erosion. Did I mention already that it isn’t 1-3pts/ nurse, it’s about 6-8pts on top of few other ones who have milder symptoms. Can’t quit, has to get through the shift, if we have these patients, that means ICU has the same or worse… can’t quit just get through the day.

I broke down, on April 15th. It was the 3rd time in my healthcare career that broke down. First time was when I worked EMS and had an 8yo blond boy in cardiac arrest. Second time was about 4-5 years in the hospital, I had an elderly patient with whom I talked at 5am – a casual conversation after her am blood was drawn (I used to work nights then) and at 530am we called a code, third time was 4.15.2020. my fuckin nerves gave out. That image of body after body after body, a horror movie but it wasn’t a movie, the gong over PA system ‘may I have your attention please, hospital code team at _____’ just replaying over and over and over. I sat on the floor in my bedroom, looking into empty space, the visuals replaying, the sounds in repeat mode and tears rolling down the cheeks… and there was NOTHING I can do to stop any of it.  “They” are calling us heroes, but I don’t feel like one, just sitting in my bedroom with my thoughts inside and emotions on my face. It was only one if very few times that I shared what’s happening and what I see and do at work with Angela.

I finished the day with DDPY and hot long shower.

It’s been a month since the last blog, 6 weeks since kids were home schooled, 6.5 weeks Picture Perfect NY had the gates open for any sessions… it’s been a roller coaster of emotions. I’m lucky though, Angela, despite how difficult it is, keeps the family glued TIGHT. Keeps the house clean, makes sure kids home/school work is done, prepares food, keeps the house clean, keep the house clean again (6 people home all the time), keeps the house clean again. Every day, physical and emotional pain, but she’s a strong woman and keeps tight and stronger!!!

There seems to be a decrease in the number of patients in the hospital. Also, we finally got additional traveling nurses (City/State beuracracy at its best) to the point where on a unit with 25 patients, we are having 6-7 nurses per shift plus additional 1-2 RNs to assist AND 5-6PCAs… just 3 weeks ago we were happy that on the unit with 40 patients we can have 4 RNs. Staff recovered from viruses, additional traveling RNs are here, it got easier. But nightmares didn’t stop, is the balance bn the DOWNer and UPer meds achieved? Is the patient decompensating where he should really call the family and maybe say goodbye (in case he won’t be able to say it again)? Did the other patient understand what DNR/DNI really is?

The 46 yo, ended up in icu on bipap, I hope he got better and was discharged. The 72 yo, ended up intubated, ended up in ICU as well, never came off the ventilator. A fellow RN, great friend, has an uncle with extensive medical history, was intubated, and finally after six weeks of hell on Earth, is extubated and recovering.

Two careers, fulfill two distinct pleasures/interests in my life, two completely opposite itches 🙂 one provides safe heaven from the other. About a month ago, I thought of taking the camera with me and document what I see and what is happening. As an alternative to a big camera (which is actually small) I thought of using the cell phone. But a decision had to be made, I’ll be either photographer during the shift or an RN. Doing both, I’m know for a FACT, I’d miss a patient who would be decompensating and would die.

I hear that some States are opening up and can get back to normal. I wonder when we will be able to do so. What will be that normal? How we, as citizens, will act towards one another? When will Angela take the camera in her hand, enter the ZONE, her happy place and start photographing the newborn child? When and how Picture Perfect NY will reopen and let’s be real – who will come and pay this allowing not just us servive as a small business – photography/portrait studio but allow us to make a living and provide for the family? I’m wondering when our parents will be able to get back to work as well? I’m wondering when we will have the family dinners? When will I see my elderly grandma, face-to-face? I’m wondering…

nyc healthcare worker

NYC RN full face mask and shield

the gear with PPE NYC health care workers

I’ wondering, when will the nightmares end!?