As the United States reach and exceed 100,000 deaths and stay at home is still in vogue in most states and the numbers out of work reach unbelievable numbers, I am inclined to reflect on the number of crises that I have experienced and been involved in. While having a telephone discussion with a friend we marveled at the idea that we would never have imagined experiencing something of this magnitude in our lifetime.
I Remember when AIDS invaded our communities we were all afraid as there were so many theories as to how it was transmitted. I remember having specific units where only infected patients were housed labeled the AIDS unit. As research progressed we found out we did not have to isolate patients as we were as the mode of transmission was clear. Patients testing positive and/or diagnosed with AIDS now experience less discrimination. People with the disease are living longer and better lives, physically and mentally.
We had the emergence of Ebola and based on quick actions by our regulatory agencies and healthcare providers we did not get out of control. Hospitals got prepared and implemented policies and procedures to handle any patient entering our system that would be safe for patients and providers.
I remember instead of driving to work on September 11, 2001 I took the express bus into the city. The bus route gives a clear view of the lower Manhattan skyline and the towering skyscrapers. It was a beautiful clear morning with blue skies and bright sunshine. While conducting a leadership meeting with my nurse managers, the receptionist interrupted to inform us that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center building. I remember my response was “are they blind?” Then she appeared again to inform us about the second plane. Our hospital is a trauma center and it was evident that we have to immediately prepare for casualties. Immediately we would implement the command center (maned by identified members such as head of nursing, doctors, and other administrative staff) according to establish policy and procedures to manage crisis.
One would not believe the number of professionals who ascended upon the hospital to offer their assistance. I was in awe when I went to the emergency room entrance and saw the crowd of volunteers there ready to help. As we go through the current pandemic I remember clearly how our staff and people came together to support each other. We inside the confines of the hospital could not fathom the disaster that had occurred nor how this was going to impact our communities. That day it was near midnight that I was able to go home so a colleague living in the same borough had driven and agreed to give me a ride home. We left the hospital where the streets were clear of traffic with lots of police presence. As we approached the highway entrance about a mile and a half away we were just in time to see a patrol car just block the entrance. Despite us telling him who we were and where we were coming from and where we were going we were not allowed to enter the highway so we headed back to the hospital for the night.
The next morning was another shock as we began to grasp the devastation but worst the panic of people trying to find their relatives. This was heart rending as answers were slow in coming. Pictures of relatives were posted on bus stops, light posts and walls along the street and family members were crowded outside the building as well as television cameras. This went on for days and the pictures got more and more. Before entering the actual hospital building there is a Long corridor from the street and as the days went by articles and pictures as a memorial and information filled the walkway.
There was such a feeling of sadness every morning as I walked down the pathway recognizing that most of these people in these pictures will never be seen by their families again. I decided to take the bus for a while recognizing the bus route took me close to the site of the devastation. I have to admit there was a feeling of anxiety and curiosity so as the bus came out of the tunnel and heading up the Eastside FDR drive you get a quick glimpse of some of the remaining debris. Then we finally got to the point where pieces of the structures were being removed via barges on the river.
I am always mindful of the first responders who lost their lives and those that now have health issues related to the exposure to the toxic air. I think of the families that lost love ones some who did not have closure but where hope comes in is how families recovered, the city recovered with positivity.
Since then a memorial ceremony is held annually on September 11th at the site where the memorial now Stands. In addition, there are two waterfall pools and later a museum was opened..
The pools are surrounded by bronze parapets that list the names of the victims.
There is also the revived pear tree that was found damaged at the site and taken care of by the parks department and finally brought back to the site. The memorial was finally opened in 2011.
Hurricane Sandy devastated the boroughs of New York where homes were destroyed and major flooding wreaked havoc that affected hospitals and businesses but we survived. Homes were rebuilt while communities supported each other, businesses recovered and returned to normal. I remember going through a mock exercise if the need arose to transfer patients to another hospital in case of flooding and at that time I thought no way would we be flooded but I was wrong. My hospital had to relocate patients.
I realize that this pandemic is here, my colleagues are out there everyday and I am routing them on. I empathize with families directly affected as I have lost some close friends and some workers who were like family. I recognize we might be in for a long haul but our state is on the mend. I am encouraged as I see the efforts being made to contain the virus and the efforts being made to care for those afflicted and fighting for their lives. I am sure we will learn some lessons and gain advanced scientific knowledge that will prepare us for future crises hopefully nothing of this magnitude. I remain hopeful. The sun will come out tomorrow. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keep hope alive. I realize things will not return to normal as we know it but with love and support and strong leadership we will come out of this.