Dangling from the cliff
Breathing in the time of COVID-19
Written by New York City Nurse
Published April 22, 2020, 11:20 p.m.
Oxygen means something different in this new reality. In peace time an oxygen level below 95% is bad. An oxygen level below 95% on a non-rebreather face mask is terrifying. That’s a no-brainer. That gets fixed quickly or that gets intubated. Everything is different now. We hang facemasks of oxygen on people with 85-90% saturations for days. They are on the edge of the cliff with one foot dangling and there they stay. Will they inevitably fall off? Are we helping or merely delaying? No one knows. Ventilators are in short supply, ICU beds are full, and ICU docs are tired. We’re all tired. So we temporize, hoping a few will sneak by and not get intubated. Hoping someone doesn’t fall off the cliff when we aren’t looking. The monitors don’t help. They are all beeping and blaring all the time from every direction. The background music of a pandemic. They only tell us what we know, everyone is sick. Only our eyes and experience can help us now. I take another lap around the ER to check the cliffsides.