The root word being “horror” that conjures up the cousins: Shock, disgust, intense dismay and mostly … fear.
Fear is that bullet that might find you in a war you did not start. It brings out the worst in us. And the best.
Megan Dunaway sees both as a registered nurse and assistant nurse manager at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare in Florida.
Her war is against COVID-19 that has killed hundreds of thousands in the United States. She sees those numbers daily. One by one. Numbers with faces.
Her fear is clear. She put it into writing that was shared in August through a friend on Facebook – a very real diary that will be part of the history of this terrible pandemic:
“I’m posting this in honor of my staff in the ER, who are working relentlessly, and seeing horrific outcomes, in honor of both of my daughters who are currently sick with COVID (doing OK, they are not experiencing what I have seen in other children in our ER fighting this), and in honor of all of my patients I have lost over these past few weeks – as this is laying heavy on my heart.
“I hope you read it, I hope you share it, I hope you restrain from commenting negatively. Controversy is the last thing I want from this share. I simply hope you start supporting, stop fighting and start thinking before coming to the ER, ‘Is this an emergency?’
“To my patients I have lost: I can only hope I brought you a little comfort in your final hours. I hope you believed me when I looked you in the eyes and said, ‘I’ve got you,’ when I knew damn well COVID is bigger than anything we have for you.
“To all of the wives and husbands and children I separated at our ER doors as their loved one checked in: ‘I’m sorry, COVID patients cannot have a visitor.’ I’m so sorry I took precious time and last moments away from you.’
“To my daughters: I’m sorry you have seen me red-faced and tear-stained every day when I get home and I have no way to explain to you, because you don’t deserve to know the darkness. And now, watching you sick from this virus, I’m sorry I did not do a better job at protecting you.
“To my staff, my family at TMH: You all are HEROES. Every single one of you. You are the light in my darkness and I will continue to show up every day with you, as you show up every day for me.
“In the past 10 shifts, I have personally taken care of at MINIMUM one critical patient with COVID per shift, all who have died. Daily. From COVID. Unvaccinated. Young. No underlying illness.
“There are no beds in our hospital COVID units or ICUs (though daily, we work tirelessly to make space). I am caring for these patients for hours/days in our ER, in addition to emergencies walking in.
“I get to know them in their darkest hour, their families, then finally, I get a bed for them at the hospital, I hug them goodbye. I have had to stop checking up on them the next day, because my heart cannot handle hearing one more time, that none of them made it.
“This is my reality. Which means this is YOUR reality. You live right here in Tallahassee with me. This is YOUR community. This is not Google researched. These are not skewed facts. This is my actual account. Right here in Tallahassee. We, as a community, are in crisis.
“Stop fighting over what is real or not. Stop fighting over whether you should get the vaccine or not. Stop fighting over whether to wear a mask or not. I can only share with you my experience. In the meantime, we, in the ER, will continue to have our doors open and care for you in your emergency as best we can. I just hope we can sustain and support your need.
“We are working so hard, and we are tired. When you yell at us, when you treat us like we are not a human being, it is infuriating, as one of my major roles is to protect my staff. If you are not being seen quick enough to your expectation, please take comfort in the fact it means you will not be dying today. I cannot say that to the person I brought back in front of you.
“I have been a nurse for 18 years, most of it ICU and emergency nursing, so by the nature of the beast, I have seen some things I would wish on no one.
“But this, by far, is the most horrific thing I have ever experienced.
“Let’s come together as a community and support each other. May we get through this TOGETHER.”
• Lonny Cain is the retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa and was a reporter for the Herald-News in the 1970s. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.