It’s the Wild West of the Coronavirus out there!

Coronavirus in Flickr Public Domain

Coronavirus (from Flickr.com in Public Domain, April 8, 2020)

It’s the Wild West of coronavirus out there, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up around here yet! In my previous blog post, immediately prior to this one, I explained that I am a counselor at a mental health facility in the Southeastern United States. Thankfully, especially in situations such as that happening right now with the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders and curfews, I have and been able to keep my part-time hours. However, the Wild West of coronavirus still puts every person at risk of getting it, particularly when people persist in not taking it seriously.

In my prior blog post, I stated that I was exposed to a colleague (who also works at another mental health hospital) who was exposed to a patient who had been hospitalized and in serious or critical condition due to the coronavirus. My exposure to this colleague occurred on March 29, 2020 when this colleague came to work, and we were in the same department office and he was using my desk in that office. I should also state that this colleague worked all day at our mutual workplace the day before that – March 28, 2020. Between those two days and his travels throughout the hospital, he exposed dozens of staff and patients to potential coronavirus. He was informed by his employer of potential exposure on March 29, and left our mutual workplace once informed.

On Monday, March 30, 2020, my colleague got tested for coronavirus, and yesterday, April 7, 2020, was informed that he tested positive for it. Thankfully and with great relief, my colleague has been asymptomatic, as per his reports. It is my understanding, however, that people who are asymptomatic can still (obviously) be carriers of coronavirus and can infect other people with it. It is also my understanding (as well as through my own observations on March 29) that my colleague who worked at our mutual workplace on the weekend of March 28-29 did not wear any protective equipment to prevent a potential spread of the coronavirus until after he stated he received a call from his employer about his potential exposure to it. Only after that call did my colleague begin wearing a surgical mask.

On March 29, I informed the charge nurse at the hospital of my colleague’s potential exposure to coronavirus, as well as my own exposure to this colleague. At that time, she informed the hospital’s nursing director about it. Yesterday, I was informed by my supervisor that staff who came into contact with this colleague do not need to be tested for coronavirus! This is per information from the Health Department, apparently! And, there was no word about informing patients at the hospital of their potential exposure to coronavirus.

So, here we are in the Wild West of the coronavirus, folks! You’re on your own. When you go to work in a healthcare facility, and if you’re a patient at a healthcare facility, you’re risking exposure to – or you’ve already been exposed to – coronavirus! You have to make your own decisions and you have to do your best to take care of yourself, as well as your own famiy. I would guess that there are those facilities such as my own workplace that are not requiring staff or patients to take extra precautions to prevent the infection or spread of coronavirus. I would estimate that there are healthcare facilities such as my own that do not require staff and/or patients to wear masks, gloves, or other personal protective equipment. Recall from my prior blog post that I purchased and have been wearing my own, and I was the first staff member at my facility that I observed to wear any PPE at all. And, to my knowledge, the department office in which I work was not cleaned or disinfected (any more than what it typically is) on the weekend that my colleague worked there, beyond what I cleaned with Lysol after he left.

That stated, I am very confident that I do not have the coronavirus, nor that I’ve passed it to my family. I do my very best to wear my own PPE at work all day, except for when I eat or drink something. When I arrive at home, I put my clothing and gloves in the laundry for washing. However, I have typically been using my N95 masks for an average of three days, which likely increases my exposure if the virus is on the outside of my masks. This is not the safest way to proceed, however I hope that it does extend the wearability of the masks that I have.

Our president is banking on social distancing to eliminate coronavirus in the United States, however so, so much more still needs to be done! Why aren’t factories churning out ventilators? Why doesn’t every person in America have masks and personal protective equipment? At least, if they don’t want to use it or wear it, it still should be made available to everyone, and in plentiful rather than limited supply. More testing for the coronavirus still needs to be done on a greater scale, and people who have coronavirus should not be prevented from being admitted to hospitals, and instead, be forced to stay in self-quarantine.

That’s all just not good enough. That’s not America. That’s not the United States that I know – doing less than the bare minimum in the hopes that our country will get through this. It’s not enough to just get through it. It’s not enough to just have faith – we need intelligent action, too. We should be putting absolutely all of our efforts into eradicating this horrific virus rather than allowing an inept federal administration to continue contributing to the deaths of so many people as a result of delays, denials, and inaction. This is a killer virus not to be taken lightly. In short, more needs to be done to stop the Wild West of the coronavirus!

American Mental Healthcare Facilities are Woefully Unprepared for Coronavirus

Protecting Against Coronavirus 3-30-20

My Coronavirus Gear

I work as a counselor at an acute mental healthcare facility in the Southeastern United States. I love what I do, but what I’ve observed during the past one month is that acute mental healthcare in the United States is woefully unprepared to tackle the coronavirus. Mental healthcare is something that we’re not hearing much of anything about during this crisis because of the focus on medical care, though protective precautions for patients and employees in the mental healthcare industry – particularly acute, long-term, and residential facilities – must be addressed and improved.

On Friday, March 6, 2020, I began wearing my own N95 masks – that I bought from eBay sellers – to work. I paid a high price for the masks, but it was worth it. I was the first employee (to my knowledge) to wear any type of mask at my place of employment, due to my own coronavirus precautions. Beginning on Friday, March 20, 2020, I also added cotton gloves to my arsenal of gear, also purchased from a vendor on eBay. Keep in mind that I’m not sick, and I’m doing whatever possible to stay that way with having to go to work.

Medical and healthcare policies toward protecting patients and staff from potential coronavirus exposure and infection need improvement in American mental health facilities. Only last week did my facility begin requiring employees to get temperature checks before entering any units. Each person is on their honor to now do their own temperature check and log the correct temperature. No medically-qualified staff are present when this occurs, nor to confirm the results. It may also be a good idea to have staff check their temperatures prior to leaving work, as well, though that has not yet been required.

Patients coming into my facility from other hospitals are generally already wearing masks that they’ve gotten from the previous facility. Only last week did my hospital begin supplying surgical masks to those patients and staff who ask for them. My understanding is that there is a low supply. More and more staff during the course of the past one month are wearing masks, including a few wearing N95 masks, and the majority wearing surgical masks. I would estimate, however, that not even one-quarter of the staff who work at my hospital during the day are wearing masks.

Yesterday, I wore an N95 mask for 14 hours. I wore it for 8.5 hours at work, and also for the rest of the day, including at home. I would ordinarily only wear the mask while at work, but yesterday, I was exposed to a staff member who was exposed to a patient at his other hospital who is in serious, if not critical, condition due to the coronavirus. I did inform two supervisors about it, and I wiped my department office down with Lysol since this colleague was also using my desk. Today, my work colleague got tested. When I checked-in with him, he stated to me that he has to wait 5-7 days for results and stay quarantined for 14 days. There was also a patient on the unit I was assigned to who was sent out to a medical hospital, yesterday, due to potential coronavirus symptoms. So, while I wasn’t exposed to that patient, I was exposed to staff who were exposed to that patient. Thankfully, I wear my mask and gloves at work for everything except eating and drinking, so I hope I’m safe from being infected.

Today, I’ve already worn the same N95 mask for 12 hours that I wore yesterday. I’m taking precautions to protect my family in case I have the coronavirus. I also washed in the laundry today three pairs of cotton gloves that I’ve been wearing – while also continuing to wear another pair. I figure that if I have coronavirus symptoms, they’ll start to appear within about three days, from what I’ve read. By Wednesday evening, I should know one way or the other.

Of course, I’m also doing social distancing, both at work and at home, while also wearing my mask and gloves. I’m also doing my laundry after work, as well as running the dishwasher to keep dishes clean. In the shower, I’m using latex gloves and I’m not keeping my soap in the soap dish, so no one else uses it. I’m also wearing latex gloves while cooking for my family. Hopefully, all of this will help prevent this ravaging virus from infecting me and my family!

I’ve been saying for weeks at work that everyone – including patients and staff – needs to wear masks. At my facility, that has not been encouraged to say the least, though I hope it will be in the near future for everyone’s protection. Everyone in facilities throughout the United States needs to wear masks, and if they’re not already wearing gloves, to wash their hands often and sanitize their areas as much as possible. We don’t know everything there is to know about this virus, though what we do know is scary and tragic. Too many people have already been lost to this horrible pandemic. People in the United States – and around the world – need to take coronavirus much more seriously, including mental healthcare professionals – for our own welfare as well as that of everyone we treat!

 

Yellowstone was Nice, except for some Park Rangers

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My son and I at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017

My son and I visited Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park in the past week.  We enjoyed seeing beautiful scenery, picturesque views, and wildlife in only a few days of visiting both of these parks.

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My son at Roosevelt Arch, Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017

Yellowstone is a huge park, with primary points of interest scattered around it.  That caused much driving and time on the road to see places such as Mammoth Hot Springs; Steamboat Geyser at the Norris Geyser Area; the Roosevelt Arch; Yellowstone Lake; Grand Prismatic Spring; Mud Volcanoes; and of course, Old Faithful.  We enjoyed seeing bison, elk, cranes, deer, and other wildlife.

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Bison at Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017 (zoomed in)

We drove to Yellowstone through Grand Teton National Park, and enjoyed amazing mountain views, beautiful lakes, and pretty wildflowers.  We saw a herd of bison some miles outside of Grand Teton National Park, between Jackson, Wyoming.  And, Teton Gap, driving down into Jackson was pretty amazing, too!  What a view, and such pleasant weather and temperatures we enjoyed!

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Elk at Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017 (zoomed in)

Besides all of the driving, and delays from road construction in Yellowstone, the most unpleasant thing we experienced, overall, were interactions with park rangers.  One of the first encounters with a Yellowstone park ranger was outside the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs.  He was a self-appointed Elk Police Officer who was totally over the top in accosting, stalking, and harassing my son and I while observing and photographing elk near the visitor center.

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Grand Teton National Park, July 8, 2017

On July 9, my son and I were at least 50 feet away from several elk and their young that were laying on the ground, yet the park ranger accosted us from his position across the street, telling us to stay away from the elk! At 50 feet away, he yelled at us to stay away from the elk, and then, he stalked and continued to harass us about it as I called to him that we were going to our car.  He actually crossed the street, harassed us, and followed us to our car.  He only left us alone once we got in our car.  I told the guy to get lost, and he replied the same to me!  Wow, what was his problem!?  He was definitely extremely unprofessional, and a pathetic example of the park rangers employed at Yellowstone.

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Yellowstone River at Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017

That was the worst experience we had at Yellowstone, and one to cause me not to want to return.  We definitely don’t need to be treated in such a horrible manner!  There were also two other instances of park rangers at Yellowstone being less than professional.  One accosted us from afar, again, at Old Faithful.  We reached down to touch water on the boardwalk, and the guy told us we committed a “federal crime.” Really?  We were on the boardwalk, and he was trying to tell us we weren’t.  Was he blind?

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Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, July 10, 2017 (zoomed in)

Chalk that up to another sexist male park ranger who has issues with women – or at least single women.  Neither of the those rangers treated men in the same manner.  On the boardwalk, a man reached down and touched water, and nothing was said to him.  And, at Albright with the elk, there were two other instances of men my son and I observed who were no more than 10 feet away from the elk, taking pictures, but the Elk Cop didn’t harass or stalk them, or make them feel threatened by chasing them into their cars.

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Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, July 10, 2017 (zoomed in)

Yet another park ranger refused to allow me to use a restroom in a campground.  I had to drive to another location 12 miles away to use the restroom for goodness sakes!  There were at least as many negative as positive interactions we had with park rangers at Yellowstone.  We did have good experiences hearing rangers give talks at Steamboat Geyser and the Norris Educational Center.  Thank you, Rangers Diana and Laurie, for those educational and interesting ranger talks. Your professionalism helped make our visit a little more enjoyable. My son also earned a junior ranger patch by completing the associated book; thank you to Ranger Jim for making that a positive experience for him.

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A waterfall at Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017

That stated, my son and I enjoyed a fun time at Yellowstone, overall.  Visiting Jackson, Wyoming, and seeing the Teton Mountains was lovely, too.  It would have been nicer, however, to photograph a few elk without being unnecessarily and unprofessionally harassed by a park ranger, especially after traveling across the country and spending $1,000s to visit Yellowstone.  While Yellowstone is not my favorite park of all of the national parks I’ve visited, it was nice to see and good to have as protected land, even though some of the park rangers need to work on their people skills!

 

Shepherd’s Men on Memorial Day

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People entering the welcoming area of the Shepherd Center at the end of the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

On Memorial Day, my son and family, and members of my son’s Boy Scout troop attended and participated in welcoming the Shepherd’s Men to the final destination of their multi-day run at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.  Members of my son’s Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew in Snellville served in the Honor Guard, posting colors (flags) for the event.  The Shepherd’s men are military veterans – both men and women – who raise awareness and funding to support veterans’ concerns, including those such as suicide, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder.

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Members of the Shepherd’s Men at the Shepherd Center following their 2017 Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

This year, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta was the final destination of the Shepherd’s Men Run that began in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the location where one of the airplanes from 9/11 went down.  Their multi-day run that ended on Memorial Day was also in remembrance of and to honor civilians who lost their lives in that plane crash. The Shepherd’s Men each wore a 22-pound flak pack, symbolizing the 22 American veterans who commit suicide every day.

The welcoming ceremony included speakers who were wives and/or mothers of veterans, including the wife of a veteran who had traumatic brain injury and came to the Shepherd Center for treatment and the mother of one young soldier who tragically committed suicide without showing signs of being depressed or suicidal.

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Members of Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew 548 from Snellville, Georgia as Honor/Color Guard for the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

Other speakers at the event included administrators of the Shepherd Center as well as an Atlanta City Council member.  There were also two singers who sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” to remember those who’ve died in service to our country.  Many members of the Atlanta Police Department, including those mostly riding motorcycles, also provided an escort for the Shepherd’s Men as they arrived at the Shepherd Center.

The event was poignant, memorable, and sensitive to veterans and their families who are experiencing struggle with physical and mental illnesses, and those who have experienced personal loss and grief.  It was nice to be present and be a supporter of this event and cause that is so important for the support of our veterans and their families.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Happy Thanksgiving (with verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson; retrieved from ourdailyblessings.com, November 26, 2015)

Happy Thanksgiving (verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson; retrieved from ourdailyblessings.com, November 26, 2015)

To everyone, may you enjoy a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!  Remember all that there is for which to be thankful. 🙂

 

Memorial Day: Remembering my Distant Cousin, David I. Briggs (1947-1968), Soldier in Vietnam (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

David I. Briggs, U.S. Army Service Photo, 1968

David I. Briggs, U.S. Army Service Photo, 1968 (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from http://www.virtualwall.org)

David I. Briggs, a distant cousin of mine, was a man who I never knew, but whose pain for his loss I felt through the hearts and spirits of his family – his mother, father, and sisters.  David was the only son of Ivan Francis Briggs (1907-2000) and Louise (Gullo) Briggs (1915-1997) of North Collins, New York.  He was 21 when he and most members of his battalion (C Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division) were killed in heavy gunfire in Tay Ninh, Vietnam on November 23, 1968 (Small, 2001).

It is my understanding from having read an article in the Hamburg Sun, that David’s battalion invaded an opposing forces’ base camp, but underestimated their strength (Gordon, 2012).  David and his captain were the first to have sacrificed their lives in that invasion (Gordon, 2012).  Thirteen men of the battalion were killed on that November day (Small, 2001).

Vintage Memorial Day Remembrance (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from www.crazywebsite.com)

Vintage Memorial Day Remembrance (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from http://www.crazywebsite.com)

I met my distant cousins, Ivan, Louise, and one of their twin daughters, in my early to mid-teens while visiting them in North Collins, New York.  Louise was a wonderful cook, and it is said that it is one of the reasons that Ivan married her.

From what I observed, Ivan and Louise also had a love for family.  Anyone who knew them could sense the pain and loss they carried with them due to the death of their son, David.  I remember after having first met Louise and Ivan that I asked my parents about the sense of deep sadness in them that I felt, and discovered that they still grieved the loss of their son, David.

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

At that time, I was astounded to know that Ivan and Louise still grieved for David after so many years, and realized that he was very much loved by them. I believe they carried that sense of grief and sadness in themselves from the time that David was killed until their own deaths.  When I met them, nearly 20 years had passed, and they were still hurting from his death. Family said that it broke Louise’s heart when David was killed; she was never the same after that.

So, while I never knew David, nor, I believe, any men who have been killed during the course of duty in war, I know that they will always be remembered for their bravery and for giving the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. May we remember and honor all those who have gone before us, who have given their lives to make this world a better place. May God bless you, David, and may you rest in peace.

References:

Gordon, C. (July 13, 2012). Traveling Vietnam wall coming to Eden, Briggs remembered. Hamburg, NY: The Sun. Retrieved May 25, 2015.  http://www.thesunnews.net/news/916-Traveling_Vietnam_Wall_coming_to_Eden,_Briggs_remembered.html

Small, L.R. (2001). David Ivan Briggs. VirturalWall.org. Retrieved May 25, 2015. http://www.virtualwall.org/db/BriggsDI01a.htm

Remembering 9/11 (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

9/11 Tribute Image (from matthew.komputerwiz.net, retrieved September 10, 2014)

9/11 Tribute Image (from matthew.komputerwiz.net, retrieved September 10, 2014)

This is to honor and remember all the innocents lost in the tragedies of 9/11, as well as to be in support of their families and friends.  They are no longer with us in body, but remain ever-present in spirit.  May we always remember and never forget.  May they rest in peace, and may everyone strive to live in peace and harmony with each other.