Things have changed in the world because of Covid19. Entire countries have shut down, some people have taken great precautions and some people have not.
When I was in the ICU, the Tide Pod Challenge was popular. I overheard some ICU nurses discussing the challenge, and questioning why people didn’t take warnings about not consuming poison seriously.
Today the danger is different, but the people’s reaction to it isn’t. Many people are taking precautions, by wearing masks, washing their hands and staying at home. Many other people are refusing to, protesting new pandemic rules, and ignoring all sensible advice about not getting covid.
The cause of the danger is different, but the response is the same: some people are completely disregarding medical advice.
The question is the same: Why don’t people listen to medical professionals.
The answer is also the same: People don’t understand what is like to be that sick. They think it is the same as being sick with the flu.
For most people, the sickest they’ve been is having a bad cold or stomach flu. They’ve never been in the hospital and they never had a serious or life threatening medical condition.
They think the most pain they can ever be in is child birth, with painkillers.
They haven’t been in so much pain, that all they can see is a black void of nothingness. They haven’t been taught how to embrace the pain, and go through it, because fighting it just makes it worse.
They haven’t had to work to open their eyes when visitors come, but found that it took more effort than anything else they had ever done before. They haven’t tried desperately to get untied from a bed, so they could escape the nightmare of sedation.
They don’t understand, and likely never will.
They are more likely to think of a violent stomach flu, in which you can’t vomit anymore, because you’re stomach is empty, but still you’re stomach tries to throw up nothing, when they think of being very sick, than what I described above.
If they were told, “wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay at home if you can, or you will have a violent stomach flu, that will go on for days, maybe weeks”, they would be more be likely to wash their hands, wear a mask or stay at home, because to them, being on a ventilator in the ICU is so foreign it might as well be mars.
It’s just incomprehensible and completely beyond any comparison to any place they’ve ever been to or anything they’ve been through before.
With a threat that is so unknown, rarely talked about, misrepresented in the media, and rarely seen in person, most people just truly don’t understand the risk.
Like the teens consuming Tide Pods they think that getting sick, is at most a trip to the hospital, watching TV all day, getting meals served at meal time, sleeping in an uncomfortable bed, and then resuming normal activities in a few weeks.
They don’t know that the hospital stay and delirium can cause PTSD, that muscle mass severely decreases in the ICU, or that the recovery process lasts months, if not years.
They can’t understand, because they have no basis, in which to understand.
Most fictional characters who’ve been in the ICU, aren’t that sick. In one show I saw, a main character decided he had enough of being in the hospital, pulled out all of this wires, and unhooked all of his machines in one motion, before getting up and walking out of the hospital, with his nurse following behind saying “you can’t go.” He didn’t even need to worry about a hospital gown that didn’t quite close in the back, because his fit perfectly.
Although people understand fiction isn’t real, if it’s the only source of information you have about a place you’ve never been, your imagination of that place, will be close to the fiction you watch and read.
We who know what it is like to be patients, staff in the ICU and visitors in the ICU, need to tell them what the ICU is like. We need to speak up and say “hey, as sick as you’ve ever been, this is so much more than that.”
I truly believe that most people, would not want themselves or their loved ones, to be in the ICU if they knew what it is like. It’s not like the maternity ward, that most people have visited, or like the emergency ward that many people have waited hours in to see a doctor. It’s for the very sickest of people.
If I told people “what ever you do, never go beyond that wall over there. Don’t go through that door, ever.”, but I never told them what was behind the wall. Even if there were dragons, volcanoes and hurricanes behind that wall, few people care that I was telling them never to go through that door and behind that wall, especially if they didn’t know me, and most especially if other’s, they did know, told them that harmless puppies were behind that wall.
Add discomfort like isolation, and mask wearing in the room they were suppose to be in, and many people would completely disregard the warning.
Other’s would loudly proclaim me to be stupid, or even destructive.
This is why misrepresentation of the ICU is wrong, and it is why for those of us who know staying silent about the ICU is wrong.
I’m telling my story as much as I can. I’m yelling as loud as I can but I need you to yell too, and maybe we’ll get people believing that getting Covid19 can be worse than following public health advice about washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing.
Maybe we can stop this together. Will you help me?
Share your storey. Tell it to as many people as you can. Write it in a blog, or a letter to the editor, or in any other way you can.
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Thank you for reading.