Do you love attending the national CMSA conferences? I sure do and was so excited I was able to attend the 2021 event, my second National, when at first it seemed unlikely.
During 2020 some health challenges came my way, and after quite some time I was finally improving, and rehab was ordered. Then BOOM—the day after the initial rehab intake appointment, something was wrong. That morning my chest felt as if it were full of shards of glass. It was painful and a little frightening, but the feeling quickly resolved. The following day the broken glass feeling was once again in my chest but brought along an unwelcomed low-grade fever. With the COVID numbers increasing locally, off I went to urgent care for an evaluation. Yikes! I tested positive for COVID! “How did this happen?” I wondered. This was 12 days prior to my first scheduled COVID shot. Due to other health issues, I was incredibly careful, and yet COVID walked through my front door. Ugh! My doctors ordered steroids and antibiotics immediately. For the next three days, zero symptoms: no cough, no “glass” in my chest, I could smell and taste, and my temperature was normal. “Wow, am I blessed to have a mild case” ran through my mind.
But apparently with COVID you never know what is coming next. Following those symptomless days, the next day brought a painful, harsh cough and a low-grade fever. It was suggested that I try to receive the monoclonal antibodies. Using my case management connections, within a few hours I was in an infusion chair getting an emergency use approved medication. This “BAM” medication was supposed to keep me out of the hospital and mitigate the symptoms. But that didn’t happen as the following morning my temperature went to 103.3, my cough intensified with hemoptysis and my O2 dropped.
My doctor gave a directive, “Go directly to the ER!” and there a picture of my lungs showed typical characteristics of COVID. My status required admission to an intermediate care unit with many consultations and of course “no visitors allowed.” The doctors even called from outside the room except for the wonderful lung and attending physicians who without fail came in confidently, using the valuable PPE, to assess me directly. Along with the doctors, the nurses, nurse assistants and respiratory therapists were amazingly supportive and the only eyes I saw each day while inpatient.
Trying to expect the best and doing as directed, I rested prone, used the incentive spirometer, was on IV medications of Remdesivir and Decadron plus respiratory administered nebulizers/inhalers and had oxygen available. However, most nights I was awakened by the nurses and/or rapid response team as the telemetry was in the 30s and my BP was low. When this happened again for the third night in a row, I started to think, “This could be the end,” “Could I die this admission?” and for the first time it occurred to me, I might never be leaving the hospital. Then I cried. When I do cry, I don’t mess around and cry loud and ugly. Amazingly, on this third night of six, my nurse was floated from ICU. This wonderful nurse was so supportive, and I was blessed to have her help me through that challenging and emotional night. Finally, I improved and was discharged after my sixth night to my home. My hope was to get some sleep and continue my recovery. But when I got home, there were five of us recovering from COVID, and more worries came my way. Still having bradycardia in the 40s, I was told to have someone check it while I was sleeping.
“Seriously, am I really ready for discharge?” But going home was where I longed to be by that time. The recovery time was slow, and some days I slept 17 hours, was short of breath with activity and had little energy. Finally, I was cleared to return to rehab, and this was a super exciting time. I was truly thankful to be alive. I had some rehab ahead of me, but I was hopeful to improve physically. Life took some twists and turns, and due to prolonged health challenges, my job was no longer protected, and a king COBRA bill was due each month. Now without a definite position and my education fund depleted in 2020, I was thankful for the opportunity the CMSA Foundation offered to assist with the conference rates.
Fast forward to June 2021. It was time for an incredible conference. I went to the virtual site to explore the 2021 Virtual CMSA Conference offerings and learn the lay of the land. I was immediately excited to experience the offerings. The opportunity to meet people in the virtual park, the amazing educational offerings, many poster presentations and even an auction were available to all.
My first session was Marvelless Mark, the keynote speaker. Mark started the day and said, “We all made it, we have survived” and then said, “One of our country’s most challenging times.” I spontaneously began to cry. I didn’t expect to cry during such an upbeat presentation, and it caught me totally off guard.
I cried again when the Foundation President, Deborah Gutteridge, shared the CMSA Foundation update and announced that 14 people were able to attend the conference due to the kindness of others, and it was such a blessing to join this event. When the CMSA national president shared updates, I was so impressed with the whirlwind of activity and especially the case load calculator. Who knew a case load calculator would make a person cry? “How could this be, do I really have any tears left?”
As the annual meeting continued, it was announced that my home chapter won the 2021 Award for Chapter Educational Programming. This committee is made up of dynamos that have amazing contacts and ideas. Well, can you guess what happened when that was announced? Absolutely, more liquid flowing down my cheeks. “Do you think I was done?” “Was anyone else crying?” “What is happening here?” So then comes the next session on “Leading through Agility and Resilience in a Global Pandemic.” You can surely guess the words brought on more tears.
“Where were these tears coming from?” Well, the next concurrent session was entitled “COVID-19 Long Haulers: Avoiding the next Mega Claims,” and yes, it happened again. I thought I might not make it through the entire event with all this crying and prayed it would stop. It was wonderful to get to the opening reception and enjoy the incredible magician where laughter was brought into my day.
Perhaps you are wondering why I am sharing this story and all these details? It is only a small portion of the challenges 2020 and 2021 brought to me and my family. The answer wasn’t clear to me during the “Day of Tears” on June 8, 2021. However, I have since realized that I was not coping with the pandemic; I was acting as if it wasn’t happening. I kept my mind busy, avoided the news and ignored most of what was happening. All that talk shared by the presenters about “what we had been through,” brought it to the surface, along with a sea of tears and emotions. So, this story is being shared for those who may be going through unexpected events that were not planned and perhaps need to give themselves permission to express what they are feeling. Please don’t tuck those feelings in as we all need to express what we are feeling and allow ourselves to cope with these changes. None of us have been through such a time as this global pandemic, and the feelings may be in unknown territory, and it is OK to admit our fears and sadness over these events.
I am thankful for the CMSA Foundation and that I lived through COVID to attend the conference. I am pleased to report I thoroughly enjoyed the final two days of the CMSA National Conference 2021 without more of the tears I didn’t expect.