COVID: Make the Human Connection

By: Annie Anderson

While infectious disease experts tell us to keep our distance from each other to slow the spread of the coronavirus, patients are scared right now. And hurting. And sometimes, alone. They look to us for hope—and a human connection—in their most vulnerable moments.

I had a call last week. A 68-year-old woman. A history of congestive heart failure and COPD. Saturation 84%. 60 respirations per minute.

Her son is a cab driver—hence potential COVID exposure from travelers, and thus a danger to her.

She is freaking out… And on the inside, so am I. I am “PPE’d to the max” as I head in.

I can see it in her eyes. Looking at me is making it worse for her, because it just got real for her. My PPE made her realize she could be a “dead man walking.” I am thinking, “she might be the one that infects me and kills me. Or my family. Or my partner…”

I breathe deeply. Then I breathe again.

I say to her, “Look at me. Look me right in the eyes. We are in this together. You are not alone. I am right here, and we will get through this together. All we need to deal with is right here, right now, with what is here in front of us. I’m not leaving you.”

She did look at me, and we got through the call. Of course I transported her.

On the way in, I took a step of vulnerability with her and acknowledged the fact that she was probably just as afraid as I was for all the above reasons. I asked her if there was anything else I could have done to make her feel better, and she said having her look me in the eyes and simply acknowledging her fears was all it took to settle her down.

We need to just stop a minute and acknowledge how afraid we all are. Then breathe and make a human connection. And then do it all over again on the next call.

Hang in there everyone.

I am trying to start an initiative for the women of the world to bring back the Victory Roll hairdo. As you may know it was worn by women during World War II as a symbol of support for the troops.

It seems like a fitting gesture given the fact we feel like we are fighting World War III with COVID-19. Only this time it’s a common unseen enemy. The Victory Roll hairdo is a silent statement of solidarity.

Annie Anderson is a Canadian paramedic, mother of two, and typically an optimist.

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