And here you will read the true story of a nurse who broke protocol.
I held the bloody hand of an HIV+ patient without gloving.
About three weeks ago.
I was walking down the hallway when I heard yelling. I hear that a lot, I work in behavioral health. So I checked what was happening and saw the patient with blood on her clothing and on her hands and I knew she was HIV+ and I didn’t know the source of the blood. I approached her anyway and got her to sit down with me and then I took her hand. And none of this happened because I’m a hero nor did it happen because I’m stupid or because I don’t know about precautions. It happened because I’m a nurse.
Just like the times I’ve peeled off my glove to do a difficult IV start so I could get a better feel. Or a million other exposures on a thousand other days. Like every other nurse in the world.
And we are exactly the kind of nurses you and your family want when you are the ones in the bed.
Yes, we should use protective equipment and precautions and yes, we do exactly that 99.9% of the time. But most of us will never turn away from a person (patient or not) in need for lack of personal protective equipment.
There’s a nurse in Dallas now diagnosed with Ebola after caring for the patient who died a few days ago. The CDC is citing a breach in protocol as the source of her infection. I don’t debate that is possible. She was gloved, masked, gowned and wearing a face mask just like she was supposed but somewhere in the complicated and long process of donning and then disposing of her equipment, something may have gone wrong leaving her vulnerable.
She has Ebola now. Even her dog is being tested. And the powers that be are desperately trying to trace the concentric circles of everyone she came into contact with. Not to mention everyone her patient came into contact with. If you think that the virus is isolated within our borders, I have to gently inform you, it’s out there now.
Why do I share this? To beg you to pray for us. Because when I held the bloody hand of that HIV+ patient, I was praying within my heart for protection. And after I settled her down, I did the scrub down and examined my hands for wounds and prayed again. We aren’t rogue caregivers or careless and we don’t have a death wish. What we have is some something, buried deep in our DNA that requires us to give ourselves to God in the service of those in need and to believe that even when the man-made precautions that should protect us fail (even when it’s because we didn’t use them,) He will honor our attempts to give care and compassion.
I don’t want applause, as a rule, nurses share very few stories of those moments when they put themselves in harm’s way. We share the gross stories, the funny moments. The things that make our friends shriek, “EW!” and cause our loved ones to turn a little green around the gills during Thanksgiving dinner.
What I’m asking is, please don’t pass judgement on this nurse who is now infected with Ebola as if her alleged protocol breach somehow makes this her fault and not a tragedy. As though it means we are all safe and there aren’t greater forces and higher powers responsible for our exposure.
You don’t want a world of RNs who will walk past you in the restaurant as you choke because she doesn’t have personal protective equipment. Or the one who won’t apply pressure to your child’s wound after a car accident for lack of gloves. You want us to be careful and yet, willing to take risks on your behalf.
So be kind. Be respectful.
And most of all, pray for us. If you’ve never prayed for us before; make no mistake, we are now in true danger. Pray for us.
Update: Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, think about and comment on the above posts. Each of your opinions, whether in support or criticism, are appreciated and respected. Due to the large amount of response and the fact that both “sides” of the conversation are well represented, I have closed comments. We seem to be moving into the area of name-calling and I don’t think further pursuit of this kind of discussion is productive. Again, thank you. Each thought you shared has been taken to heart by me. God bless.