Laundry, Bleach and a Pandemic

I’m not even sure where to start. I’ve taken off almost the entirety of the last year to finish a manuscript and haven’t written on my blog since last May. But I felt the need to sort through my thoughts, and I’ve had a lot of friends reach out and ask how things are in the midst of the pandemic. So, I’ll probably start parking a lot of my thoughts here, and I’m going to start with the basics.

My husband, a physician double board certified in Hospital Medicine and Medical Informatics, wears dress clothes to work on days he doesn’t see patients. Two weeks ago, he switched to wearing scrubs instead of dress clothes for these days. 

He would come home from work, take his shoes off at the garage door, strip off his scrubs and put them into the washing machine (which is right by the garage door). He then would get in the shower and scrub head to toe with antibacterial soap. I would wash his scrubs with bleach on the sanitary cycle and dry them on the antibacterial cycle, a total of 5 hours a day. During this initial time, he was not seeing patients.

Medical Informatics is basically medical data. This man runs on black and white facts. He is unflappable. I had a high risk delivery with our first son and was close to stroking out and dying in front of him in the OR and he didn’t blink. The ongoing joke is that I was ‘a little bit sick’.

At the beginning of last week, we started having logistical conversations about COVID-19 and what would happen when he started seeing patients (his normal workload). We made a plan and the middle of last week, I went to Target.

I picked up a 90 day supply of my medications and the ones our youngest son takes (shoutout to the CVS pharmacy in Target because they are amazing and some of my most favorite people). Why a 90 day supply you might wonder? If my husband is exposed at work and quarantined, our family will quarantine and forgo essential trips and our insurance does not allow for prescription delivery. 

I bought a plastic container to hold his shoes when he gets out of his car. I bought an inexpensive set of sheets for the guest room that can be repeatedly bleached and sanitized. And I bought this $8 laundry basket that can be thrown out when this is over.

On Thursday of last week, I removed everything from the guest bathroom that can’t be sprayed with the Clorox Healthcare spray. 

On Friday afternoon, my husband showered and put on his scrubs in the master bathroom. He and I then listened to our youngest get choked up over his fears that he was going to go to work, get sick and die. My husband then hugged me for the last time indefinitely, as he was now going on service and would be treating patients.

After he left for work, I put the new sheets on the guest bed. I moved all of his toiletries into the guest bathroom. I pulled his scrubs, undershirts, underwear and socks out of his closet and moved them into the guest room.

The routine we set in place last week is even more stringent. And even more time consuming. I laughed yesterday that I am in extreme exposure therapy for my OCD. 

For the first time in 17 years, my husband and I are sleeping in separate beds. We are not physically touching. We looked at the calendar last night. Based on his schedule, the first time he will be able to hug me or touch me will be April 27. At the earliest.

I am regularly talking to other doctors and wives across the country. They are scared, angry, and preparing for the train wreck they can see that others are refusing to acknowledge.

There are not enough masks, gloves or PPE’s (full gown protection) for the health care staff because people are hoarding and stealing them. There are not enough ventilators for the upcoming needs. There is a video making its round in healthcare circles on how to add tubes to a ventilator to accommodate additional patients in an emergency. Doctors in Italy are having to make decisions on who will live and who will die because there is not enough ventilators. 

Health care workers here are worrying about this and yet I am watching people selfishly whine about not being able to go to parades and block parties. People complaining that they feel fine. People arrogantly believing that they know more than scientists, doctors and nurses about what is coming. 

The arrogance is what is the most terrifying out of everything to me. Eric and I have traveled a lot, and when we’ve been in Europe, we’ve gotten a lot of comments like, ‘Americans are usually so much more arrogant than other visitors.’ They meant it as a compliment, that they didn’t think we were arrogant, but those comments have always stuck with me.

In this case, arrogance is going to kill people we love. It is going to kill doctors, nurses, the custodial and food staff at the hospitals. 

I am angry. Angry that people are choosing to blatantly ignore what needs to be done for the collective greater good of saving millions of lives. I am worried about small businesses and people’s financial situation and how at risk millions of Americans are at losing everything. 

But most of all, I am angry that people believe that social distancing is more of a sacrifice than that of my husband’s life and those of his colleagues. 

Please, stay home. Please, practice social distancing. Please believe the scientists, doctors, epidemiologists, mathematicians and every other person who have literally been studying their entire lives for this moment in time. 

Please. 

 

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