Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler.
I am blessed to have a really good feel for people. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I just know someone’s nature instinctively. Rarely … very rarely … am I ever off in my initial impression of someone. I don’t even have to talk to you or hear you talk to get this kind of feeling. I just need to see you and be around you. This was great when I was a newspaper journalist because I could easily tell when someone was lying to me. That skill also comes in handy as a parent. Both my boys are either horrific liars or I am just that good at seeing through them. They hate me for it. I’m glad.
When I met Kim today, I knew she was a really good person. It’s funny how you can pick that up from people when the only thing you can see on them is from about an inch above their eyes to an inch below them. Just walking beside her as we went back to where we would do a pulmonary function test, I knew: She was a Type A nurse.
What’s a Type A nurse? My theory is that there are two types of nurses. Type A nurses genuinely care about the people who cross their paths. It could be their patients. It could be their patients’ families. Whoever it is, Type A nurses will be caring, compassionate, encouraging and nurturing. They can be slammed with a 24-hour shift in which they get vomited on, pooped on, bled on and yelled at by a physician and still not lose focus that those in their orbit are really scared.
Type B nurses maybe once were Type A nurses. But somewhere, somehow, they’ve lost their way. Patients are charts, not people. Family members are inconveniences, not an extension of the patient. These people might be good at a blood draw or gentle when they clean you up after a car accident, but your humanness is largely invisible to them.
Kim was a definite Type A. I instantly liked her. We were a team. We were going to do this pulmonary function test, whatever that was, and we were going to have a good time doing it.
I sat in a little plexiglass box. She was fully gowned, masked and eye-protected, and I was, gasp, allowed to take off my mask in the presence of a non-familiar human being! I felt vulnerable. Naked. But there I sat… in the little box on a swivel chair with this thing in front of me.
Kim told me we’d be doing some breathing tests, which is what I figured a pulmonary function test would be, and she went about getting everything ready. The “thing” was this apparatus into which I would blow.
Kim asked me if I was ready.
And then she tried to kill me.
This sweet, kind, supportive, encouraging woman made me take these deep breaths in and and then these huge breaths out. No problem, I thought at first. Except she kept saying, “Keep blowing, keep blowing, keep blowing.” This was fine for a few seconds, but what Kim was not aware of was that I didn’t have any air left to blow. I was, in fact, quite sure I was dying.
This, however, wasn’t Kim’s first rodeo. Instead of allowing me to stop and live, she encouraged me: “Keep blowing, reach out through your tippy toes…”
What the heck was she talking about? Breathe through my tippy toes?
But ya’ know what? On my third attempt, when my lungs felt as if they would explode as I pushed and pushed and pushed to expel air, I noticed I did raise up on my tippy toes and was able to make it to her deadline.
Test after test after test, Kim encouraged me to give more breath than I thought I had. And it hurt. And I was dizzy. And I wanted to hate Kim for making me do all this stuff when she still was so funny and nice and kind and encouraging. But I couldn’t. Because Kim’s a Type A nurse, and it’s really hard to hate a Type A nurse, no matter what they do to you or make you do to yourself.
When we were all done, I thanked her for her kindness. I told her I could tell how much she liked her job.
“That’s true,” she said. “I liked it a lot more before COVID.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Well, because these tests are really hard, and if someone was struggling like you were, I could go over to them,” and here she mimed rubbing someone on his back. “Now I can’t touch anyone, and touch is sometimes so important.”
Kim. Type A.
I have no idea what my test results are. A lung doctor will look at them and the results will pop up in MyChart at some point in the next 24 hours. I’m hoping they show that my lungs are fine.
This Longhaul journey already has led me to encounter many different people. I have had people reach out to me through the Facebook support group and am now “friends” with a French Canadian, someone from out west and someone who lives right in my hometown. I’ve met all sorts of medical people who are genuinely flummoxed by this Longhaul crap and are equally genuinely trying to help.
Being a Longhauler sucks. But meeting Type A nurses like Kim, well, these are the people who make the journey a little more tolerable.