Oxygen is our only medicine
And we don't have enough....
Written by New York City Nurse
Published April 22, 2020, 11:17 p.m.
Oxygen Rounds is a new term we have become all too familiar with. I have a hospital full of medications. Antibiotics and anti-virals and sedatives and vasopressors and steroids and opiates. But the only truly effective medicine we have is Oxygen. We blow it at high flow rates into people’s mouths and nostrils, a crutch to help the lungs that are struggling and staggering. And it’s in a shorter supply than I’d like. It flows forever from spickets on the walls, but we have many times more patients than spickets and even fewer rooms so an ever increasing number of patients on stretchers line hallways further and further from the spickets on the walls. We place portable tanks next to stretchers, but the tanks run out and we can’t refill them fast enough. Once per hour, sometimes twice, I walk the halls, hunting for gauges approaching empty and hoping the cabinet holds a replacement. Invariably I find empty ones and hope it hasn’t been empty long. Invariably someone is turning blue. It’s no one’s fault. it’s everyone’s fault. it’s Covid’s fault. And there just aren’t enough eyes and hands to keep up. I mutter a promise to check three times next hour. I pull a step ladder from the utility closet and string plastic connecters end to end to end threading them from wall spickets through corrugated ceiling tiles to drop down above patients’ heads in the hallway so they aren’t reliant on a tank. It’s hard to tell which knob goes to who, but at least it doesn’t run out. It’s a strange time when a step ladder becomes a more useful tool than a stethoscope.