Dispatches from the Western Front: The System

New Normal

Last Monday night, I went to bed early, my breathing not at 100%. I was midway through a lower respiratory infection and had been coughing up junk days prior. All of this had stirred up my asthma symptoms, which I had been battling since the holidays.

Around 2 am, I awoke from a breathing arrest. I reached for my albuterol and took a puff. Typically within 10 minutes I can fully fill my lungs. It didn’t help. I took another puff, still no relief.

My wife woke and knew I was in distress. Did I have Coronavirus? We debated whether I should leave to Urgent Care right then. I didn’t want to go because with no fever, they would sent me home, plus, I didn’t want to burden the system. All I could do was keep calm and let my lungs relax.

I was able to get back to sleep, but woke the next morning foggy and tired. I knew I needed care. My allergist’s office called following the message I had sent in the middle of the night. They said to go to my primary care doctor or Urgent Care.

I made the first available appointment with my primary care doctor, but within minutes, he called me back and said, given my symptoms, I should go directly to Urgent Care.

At Urgent Care, I witnessed a whole new way of delivering healthcare, a method that may be the new way going forward.

Outdoors along the walkway to the Urgent Care entrance, a triage nurse in head-to-toe personal protective equipment stood across two six-foot tables. She wrote down symptoms while another medical assistant made red duct tape hatch marks every six feet on the sidewalk. “Social distancing people,” he said.

After intake, the nurse sent me back to my car to wait. After about 45 minutes, a nurse called me and said to pull up to a cabana. RN Doug rolled his cart out to my car window and took vitals. The doctor followed soon after. Under this own PPE, he listened to my chest, had me cough. Asked about where I’ve traveled to, reviewed my symptoms.

His assessment: I wasn’t a patient with risk factors to be tested for Covid-19, but it was smart to be seen since they are viewing all patients with respiratory issues as being potentially exposed. He sent me home and said to continue taking my albuterol.

He said I could have been exposed earlier in the year since I travel a lot, but he said at that point, there wasn’t much to be done. He left my open driver’s side window and I wiped down the door with Clorox wipes.

New normal.

That my asthma had to flare during a global health crisis is one thing. That our healthcare system does work, and that our medical professionals are busting their tails every single day to help those in real need, (and those with peripheral needs like me) is another, quite amazing thing. Thank you to all the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical assistants, and everyone who works in the medical field to directly serve patients—you are on the front lines of this. You are the heroes. Thank you.

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Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash