It might feel like the population of people who already live every day using a ventilator have things easy right now. Ventilator on standby – check, breathing filtered air – check, legitimate reason to self-quarantine – check, fast-track access to testing if one falls symptomatic – check. Easy, right? The reality is a bit more complicated.
As a ventilator dependent individual, I fall into the category of high risk, which means I have been tucked away from society ahead of the government mandated precautions. However, my care is complicated and not limited to those living at home, we have a large fleet of nurses and caregivers that come into the home to support my family with my care. Yes, as healthcare providers they are allowed to continue working, but determining which of them should continue participating in my care has become a constant question and continual logistic tug-of-war. Basically, I have gone from having a calendar full of events and activities, to one which is populated with exposures and potential exposures.
All of my nurses have other jobs, so in addition to their personal interactions I have had to ask them to screen all of their professional interactions for potential exposures. Yes, I am being cautious because of my situation and elevated risk, but I am also concerned about being a vector of contamination. Research is increasingly showing how many people can be infected and spreading the virus while being completely asymptomatic. If I have nurses who were exposed and I pick up the virus I am then spreading it not only to all of my other caregivers, but to each of their subsequent interactions as well. I would feel terrible if I were responsible for spreading the virus, even if I were to remain asymptomatic. We all share the responsibility of helping to control the spread of COVID-19.
Due to the fact that I have so many caregivers it has quickly become a large web of interconnected individuals, making it very obvious why taking quarantine measures seriously is so critical. I will not bore you with the tedious details of what is essentially a text version of a phone tree every time one of my nurses had some sort of potentially risky interaction. Fortunately, none of them have developed into any active infections. However, I will say that I have had to change who and how I am scheduling nurses during this time. Thankfully, many of them work together in their other jobs and have worked together to divide the group, so that some stay out of the clinic and safety pick up extra shifts here with me, while others are working overtime to meet the needs of the clinic while keeping me safe by staying away.
Not only is it a heavy burden being the final judge in who will come in and who must stay away, it is very difficult to ask someone not to come to work during a time when people are concerned for their livelihood. Everyone has been understanding and working together in order to support everyone's needs, while minimizing risk is much as possible, but that does not completely erase my stress and guilt over the choices I have had to make. It makes me think of a famous quote from Spider-Man, "with great power comes great responsibility." I only wish that I had the power to do something constructive during this difficult time in order to balance out the responsibility, but life is not easy so we must strive to do the best we can. Everyone is responsible for their actions and how those actions will affect the spread, regardless of whether or not one becomes symptomatic this pandemic is a burden on the shoulders of each and every person.
The views expressed by Loa are not necessarily the view of the Ventec Life Systems, its members or the clinical board. These blog posts are the personal experiences of Loa. The blog posts are not intended to provide clinical advice or training related to VOCSN. Always consult a physician or trained clinician prior to using VOCSN. Please refer to the VOCSN Clinical and Technical Manual for detailed instructions, including indications and contraindications for use. VOCSN is available by prescription only.