Tag: Fear

Dodged A Bullet

One of the unique aspects of hospital work is the concept of being “floated”. I have my home floor where I was hired. But the hospital has the right to send me to any floor they choose in order to cover staff shortages. I guess the theory is that an RN is generic and doing nursing shit is the same on every type of floor right? Doesn’t matter that I have no idea who the providers are and many of the medications on that floor are something I’ve never seen. I have no idea what the policies are for that specialty or even how to find the supply room. Imagine being in marketing and working day after day on a particular product launch. You show up to work and your boss tells you to have to go work on a different product team today. After all, marketing is marketing, right?

Anyway, I showed up the other day and checked the schedule. The dreaded words… float to the covid floor. Sigh. Naturally nobody wants to work the covid floor, so everyone has to take a turn. Unfortunately due to the spike in cases in my area, coupled with huge staffing shortages, getting floated to the covid floor is becoming pretty common. So off I went to the hot zone.

Twelve hours of putting on a heavy plastic gown, gloves, N95, surgical mask, and face shield, going in the room to take care of business, then stripping it all off. Then doing the same in the next room. Then going back to the first room. Then the next room. Over and over and over again. These folks are sick. For the most part not much bothers me medically – but watching people struggling to breathe when there’s little I can do, is just hard. It makes for a long day.

Fast forward a few days and I woke up and just felt… off. I did a bunch of errands and then some yardwork. By early afternoon I had zero energy and a splitting headache had set in. The next morning, no change. No energy, fatigue, brain fog, and a dull headache. Classic covid symptoms. Crap! The China virus finally got me. How ironic that I’ve been writing about breakthrough cases in vaccinated people and now I’m going to be one of those statistics. In my mind I replayed all my patient encounters. Did I get sloppy with my PPE? Did I forget to wash my hands and then touched my face? I was adjusting my mask when that guy coughed on me, maybe that was it?

We have some people coming to visit and an upcoming trip, so I figured I better get tested just to confirm. Insurance will pay if you’re willing to wait 2-3 days for your results. If you need immediate results it’s out of pocket. So I plunked down my $142 and got the swab via a drive through testing center. I went home and started making a list of who I may have come in contact with so I can tell them they might have been exposed.

Negative. Negative for covid and influenza. Whew. And this morning I woke up and felt fine. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was a cold? Too many days of poor sleep? Didn’t drink enough water? Too many nachos in one sitting? Weird.

Our world has certainly changed. I never used to think twice about feeling off for a few days. Now, the slightest sniffle and we all worry that the dreaded virus finally got us. We’ve been brainwashed into becoming a society that fears normal human interaction. Half the population endorses authoritarian/totalitarian measures of control. The other half is ready riot in protest.

I live in a weird dichotomy. I live my life as normal as possible, without fear. My odds of grave injury in a motor vehicle accident are higher than being struck down by covid. I’m going to eat in restaurants, enjoy time with friends, and see family. Yet, in the back of my mind are images that not everyone sees. A few days ago I watched a man be wheeled into his wife’s room for a few minutes to say goodbye – before we pulled her off oxygen support. Another covid statistic. That’s real. It’s not a meme on Facebook.

I miss normal.

What’s Your Risk Tolerance?

  • I just got back from a four day road trip on the ginormous motorcycle. It was a fantastic trip with a couple of “bucket list” rides. I mentioned in my last post that I almost cancelled due to a threat of inclement weather. Sure enough, day one I got caught in a pretty severe rain and hailstorm. Let’s just say that large hail at 60 mph on a motorcycle hurts! The important part is that I survived and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d built it up to be in my head. I rode a few other sections that were high speed highway (70 and 80 mph speed limits) with plenty of large semi’s and some high winds. Serious white knuckle time in the beginning, but I wasn’t thinking about it much towards the end of the day. The point is that the unknown is scary and it’s easy to let that fear get the better of you when try to visualize what it’s going to be like. I guarantee that most of the time reality will prove to be nothing like the horrible scenarios you let run away in your imagination.
  • Which leads me to my question on risk tolerance. Pushing through fear is all well and good, but you still need to do a reasonable risk assessment of the situation. A brand new motorcycle rider attempting a busy freeway on his first day is stupid. The lack of skill makes the risk factor way too high. So how do you evaluate risk? When it comes to hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, I have a reasonable amount of life experience. I’m an RN, was a member of a search and rescue team for years, comfortable with navigation, and feel pretty comfortable with knowing my physical limits. My risk tolerance for hiking in the backcountry is pretty high. Barring serious injury, I’m not terribly worried about surviving a few days if something went wrong. I’m reasonably confident I could put myself in a position to be found or self-rescue. More importantly, I feel like I’m less likely to put myself in a bad position in the first place. Most of our rescues on the SAR team were for people who had no idea they were even putting themselves at risk until it was too late.
  • Which brings me back to the ginormous motorcycle. I have many years of riding experience. Unfortunately most of it was simply commuting back and forth to work. The long road trips are new to me, but I feel like I still have enough overall street experience in those scenarios to make good risk assessments. But what I really want to do is spend more time riding in the backcountry. I have no dirt experience. At what point, when riding by myself, am I being stupid? Most of my fears revolve around being stranded. A crash or other mechanical issue that disables the bike. Dropping the bike and not being able to pick it up. A navigation error and running out of fuel or getting into a scenario I’m not capable of riding. Now what? With the motorcycle it’s easy to go distances beyond a simple hike out.
  • So, do I not go out by myself? Do I simply start slowly and go a little further each time? Do I spend days beforehand making a battle plan with every possible scenario for each ride? At some point that’s no longer fun. On one hand, what’s the worst that could happen? Again, assuming no serious injury, the bike breaks down and I’m stuck. A few days of hiking or until someone finds me. While it would suck, very survivable. It’s extremely rare that someone goes missing and perishes before being found. But that’s not a fair burden to put on loved ones waiting at home, thinking the worst.
  • At what point are you being so cautious you’re limiting activities due to fear of the unknown? At what point are you placing yourself needlessly at risk because you failed to adequately prepare and didn’t recognize that you were in over your head? For me I think the answer will be to go slow and over-prepare initially. Of course I’ll seek out more experienced riding partners… but I don’t want to sit at home waiting for that to happen. The other option is to sign up for one of the various riding schools and learn/improve my dirt skills. I suppose I should do that regardless. How do you evaluate risk? Pro’s/con’s on a spreadsheet? Avoid it at all costs? Just do it and whatever happens, happens? I’m honestly curious how others evaluate risk?

Song of the day: Lily Allen | The Fear

Turn In My Man Card

This is a post about fear. It’s fairly obvious that a certain amount of fear is healthy. It’s what keeps us from walking across a busy interstate freeway, petting porcupines, and wearing jean jorts with white socks and camo crocs. But fear is a very clever, subtle creature. It sneaks up on you. It slowly creeps in, year after year. It begins to encroach in small little areas of your life. Its power increases bit by bit without you realizing it. Until one day you find yourself completely ruled by fear. Fear of change. Of something different. You tell yourself you like your routine. It’s comfortable. Why would I want to disrupt that? Or maybe you do want to make a change… but tomorrow. Not right now. I’ve got that big project at work to finish. Just a few more years and then the kids will be out of the house. I just need to lose this weight and then I can try that sport.

We’re all guilty of this to some degree. Some of us more than others. I’ve had countless elderly patients on my floor that literally never left their small town. Never traveled more than fifty miles from home. Raised kids, worked the same job, retired and spent their remaining time sitting on their porch watching the traffic go by. I can’t fathom that. I’d place my risk/fear tolerance maybe slightly above average. My interests trend towards the more extreme sports end of the spectrum. I’ll jump out of an airplane, but don’t ask me to dance in public. My social fears (what will people think?) are far greater than than my physical fears. Fortunately with age, the social fears begin to dissipate. The older I get the less I give a crap what people think.

So here’s the point where I have to laugh at myself. If you’ve been following my saga with the ginormous motorcycle, you’d know that my mission was to overcome some fears of travel and exploring. Fear in the sense of I’m not a big fan of the unknown. While I do like to travel, I like it to be controlled. I want to know exactly where I’m staying, what sights I’m seeing, have dinner reservations, etc… My goal was to bust through that. I purchased the ginormous motorcycle so I can hit the open road, be semi-spontaneous and see small town America.

The plans have been all coming together. I found the right motorcycle and started the process of outfitting it with racks, crash bars, and researching the right riding gear. I’ve spent this early spring improving my riding confidence and bike handling skills. I’ve spent countless hours with maps and web sites finding interesting routes with unique sights to see. A few days ago the final piece of the puzzle arrived. The luggage I’d ordered for the motorcycle, which was on backorder, finally arrived. I’m set – ready to hit the road!

Here’s the point at which I have to turn in my fear-conquering man card. I’ve been struggling with where to go first. The weather in our corner of the world hasn’t been great. We’ve had a spring full of non-stop wind, rain, and cold. Last night after work I was watching a YouTube channel I subscribe to. It’s a gal who travels the world by motorcycle. She’s currently riding solo across South Africa. She frequently makes random decisions to explore an unknown dirt road without any idea if she’ll have enough fuel to make it to the next town. She’ll ride the entire day in the backcountry without seeing another person. If she broke down, or encountered some unfriendly people, that could be disastrous.

In the middle of the episode I burst out laughing at myself. It suddenly dawned on me. Here’s this young gal, riding solo across a region of the world with some actual, non-trivial dangers. And what am I doing? Worrying about riding someplace and there might be wind or, gasp… rain. I literally have been going through my maps and trip ideas, looking for something that might be “safer” from weather. I clearly failed the Easy Rider, intrepid explorer test and I haven’t yet left the driveway. I’m such a dork.

We all have fears. Rappelling fifty feet off a cliff or giving a speech in front of a thousand people are legitimate fears. I’m not saying everyone needs to conquer those big fears. But what we all need to do – is overcome the silly little fears. Because those silly little fears start to build. The little fears become irrational big fears and it’s those fears that will hold you back from enjoying life. I don’t know much, but the older I get the more I realize we’re only here once. You get one shot at life. Make the most of it. Promise yourself that this week you’ll do something out of your comfort zone. I guarantee you’ll be happier for it.