Garage Shoes: A Love Note From the Front Line
Many of us have friends and loved ones on the front line, fighting Covid-19. One of our clients sent me this picture of her “garage shoes.” I asked her to share her experience with us and let us know what we can do to help. She sent this note, asking to remain anonymous.
The choice of writing anonymously was made because Covid-19 is affecting us all. This story isn’t about one nurse, one friend, or one healthcare organization. It is about us all out on the frontline working together to reduce the impact of Covid-19 as it continues its movement around the globe.
This morning I walked into my garage and put on a pair of shoes that hadn’t been worn in a week. How did I know when they’d last been worn? Last weekend as I finished sanitizing the garage, I set up a system, five pairs of shoes laid out, in order, on a towel. One pair set out for every day of the working week; a repeated pattern for the weeks to come.
Why such attention to the order of shoes? A recent story circulated that the Covid-19 virus can live on soft surfaces like soles of shoes for 5-7 days.
I arrive at the hospital just 15 minutes later, stopping at the entrance to have my temperature taken, record it along with my employee number, and finally make my way to my office. Not long after I get settled in for the day a nurse supervisor who leads the emergency department arrives. “Sandy” is one of those leaders who volunteers for any activity that will increase the morale of her team. She brightens the rooms she enters. She loves her team. It’s just that obvious.
Today though, Sandy isn’t bright. She isn’t smiling. She isn’t there to share good news. Sandy is exhausted, she’s afraid for herself and her team, she’s worried about our patients, and she’s angry about decisions that she cannot influence. Rather than sparkling eyes, today hers are dark, rimmed in sleepless nights and outlined heavily in black eyeliner.
Getting up, I shut the door behind my colleague and friend. I open up the space. I let her know by simply sitting down with her and being quiet that it is safe to unburden herself. Every sentence, every look, every physical movement beats with her broken heart. We talk about the tears streaming down the face of a young mother who is bringing her feverish toddler in for a Covid-19 test. We talk about her efforts to brighten the work environment. Her final story is about how it is impossible for our healthcare team to maintain a six-foot distance from one another as they care for patients in the emergency room.
As I move through the day, I see these same expressions and emotions repeated in the faces of caregivers at every level of the organization. We are a tribe who are afraid for ourselves and loved ones. We are doing everything we can to care for those already here and to prepare for the sickest yet to come. We are angry about things beyond our control – and so much seems beyond our control. Mostly though, we are heartbroken.
We are also a tribe who are prepared. We are finding creative ways to secure and save critical personal protective equipment (PPE). We are blessed with community members who are reaching out to ask how they can help with gifts of PPE, with donations to purchase what can be purchased, with meals prepared by local restaurants.
Tonight, returning home, today’s shoes are placed side-by-side with yesterday’s shoes. Stepping away from the shoes, I take a quick minute to strip off the clothing from the day and finally enter my home. Dropping the clothing in the washing machine I make my way to the bathroom and shower for the second time today.
Dinner follows next with a bit of mindless television, short phone calls with family and friends, and finally relief.
The final hour of my day will be spent on the floor in gentle yin yoga. For 45-minutes, my body will writhe as I release into each position. Raising up first from my hips, the waves of grief and fear will release. As my hips clear, the writhing will center in belly, then heart, and finally shoulders. When my shoulders are through, I can finally soften into the ground below me. Now settled, music at last washes through me, opening my heart and preparing me for a deep and restful night of sleep.
In the morning, the last thing I’ll do before I get into my car is put on my Friday shoes. I’ll arrive at the hospital and have my temperature taken once again. I’ll keep my door open for Sandy and any of our colleagues who need a few moments to drop their shoulders before they go back out to care for our neighbors, families, and one another.
How can you help? If you’re not required to leave your home, please stay home. Breathe love for our shared heartbreak. Where there is anger, fear, confusion, or distrust, breathe love. If you have the ability to be of service or to make a financial contribution, call your favorite hospital and ask how you can help.