I’m sure most of us were riveted to our TV’s, radios, and computers on April 19th when the citizens of Boston and surrounding areas were advised to stay home and lock their doors. Mass transit and normally busy intersections were empty. Schools were not in session. Businesses were closed.
Working with hospice and needing to send out nurses on a regular basis to help patients who are dying at home, I naturally wondered how Boston area hospices coped with having to stay away from their patients.
Our hospice patients call us for many different reasons; even if they don’t call us, some require daily visits. Some need to have pump cassettes changed, dressings changed, or symptoms re-assessed and managed every day. I’m sure Boston has had its fair share of weather-related issues, but those typically come with at least a day or so warning and arrangements can be made. The shutdown that happened in April came with no warning whatsoever.
I was able to track down only a couple of Boston hospice nurses to chat with – they both said that their patients fortunately did not to require anything emergent that day. I know that almost every time I work, I take calls from people who need a visit from a nurse to help manage symptoms that have suddenly gotten out of control (shortness of breath, pain) or who have died and need to be pronounced. Catheters become dislodged, oxygen concentrators malfunction. I guess under the circumstances, non-urgent concerns were put off until the lockdown was over.
I know I was very surprised when I started working in hospice to learn that things that are an inconvenience to us (the President visiting the area or major protests, both of which can shut down major roads and highways for a period of time) can be a huge deal to patients who are at home. Hospice nurses have to figure out alternate routes (which can take much longer) or simply not visit at all in these cases. And it doesn’t only apply to hospice – home health patients can also require daily dressing changes, IV medications, and have equipment malfunction (wound vacs, anyone??).
I will leave you with a story that one of the nurses related to me. She was off from work that day, but wanted to share what her day was like. If there are any hospice or home care nurses that want to share stories of trying to help patients during natural disasters (or not-so-natural disasters), please email me at codeblogrn at gmail. Or use the “submit your story” link at the top.
Sarah Creed, RN writes:
I think that the day was so quiet because we were all glued to our televisions. I can’t recall another time where I have been more paralyzed by fear than last Friday. I live 2.5 miles from the house in Watertown where suspect #2 was found. Here is the story of my day:
I woke up to a text message from my boyfriend (who lives 2 miles from the “boat” and 1 mile from where the news was reporting from) asking if I was okay. After the rest of the week, I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, so I texted back saying yes, and of course went immediately to check CNN. I read that there had been a shoot-out in Cambridge and Watertown and that the suspect was on the loose. I called the DON of my hospice, as I am the nursing manager, and though I was supposed to be off, I wanted to help her call nurses. But at 7:30 in the morning she had already done that, and all was well. So I sat and watched. I was supposed to be packing, as my boyfriend and I are moving on Saturday. But I could not move. I sat and watched as the SWAT team entered homes so close to where I live. And then, the most terrifying thing happened – they stopped showing live news feed of the SWAT team entering homes.
We couldn’t drive anywhere, and even more than that we couldn’t walk anywhere, so my boyfriend and I were stuck apart. All I could hear was the wailing sirens of emergency vehicles. And then the whirl of a helicopter. Lots of helicopters. I looked out my window, and there were black hawk helicopters all around my building. And they were no longer showing live news feed, so I had no idea where they thought the suspect was. I was so afraid, because what if he was on my block? I know my building is safe. There are 2 locked doors to get into the lobby, and a lock and a deadbolt on my door. But still, it seemed these men were capable of just about anything. The day just continued like that.
We finally got the go ahead for people who had gotten out to work to come back home, so my boyfriend’s roommate picked me up on his way home, so that we could all be together. We just sat and watched the TV, waiting, with a very high sense of anxiety. The place was like a ghost town. My mom, who lives an hour north of the city said that no one was out by her either. I think that people just couldn’t walk away from the television. We wanted answers. One of my friends was friends with the MIT officer who was shot by the terrorists. Another one of my friends is friends with Jeff Bauman, who is now infamous as the man in the wheelchair being pushed by the man with the cowboy hat. He lost both of his legs. These are people that my people know and love. We wanted answers.
Then we hear that they didn’t find him, and that we can go outside. So we go and sit on the porch. And suddenly there are so many sirens, more than I had heard all day. My boyfriend tried to re-assure me that there had been a lot of sirens all day long, but I insisted that there were more. And then it came across my phone that there were shots being fired in Watertown. We were back to being glued to the TV. We found a link to the police scanner so we were able to hear what was actually happening. And then he was captured.
After awhile, we mustered up the courage to go outside and to the bar across the way. And the coolest thing, there were people cheering on the law enforcement personnel that were coming back to the station. Everyone at the bar was in a celebratory mood, and playing “American” songs on the jukebox. We survived. But, I have to tell you, it is still pretty traumatizing. One of my coworkers is having a pretty tough time – she was visited by the SWAT team that day and heard the shots. Forum, on Boylston St, where the second bomb went off, is one of our favorite restaurants. We are looking forward to going back there when it re-opens, but of course the innocence is gone. We had just been out on Boylston street on Saturday night before the bombing. We had been shopping in Watertown on Sunday. We feel violated. This is too close to our homes. But, we are strong, and we will move on and get through this. I can’t believe that the Boston One Fund has already raised over $28 million. We are so proud of that.
I know this is long – but this my story. It doesn’t pertain to hospice care. But this is how I know my hospice patients spent the day – glued in front of the TV, and very afraid.