This week I am writing from the last place that I want to be.

You may be aware that we moved our mom to The Spires at Berry College after our dad passed away in the fall. Thanks to the staff and fellow residents, she has had a wonderful experience so far, which has smoothed the pain of the major transitions she is going through.

This week she was having some health issues and had to be taken to AdventHealth Redmond. She was brought in early in the morning and within a few hours of her arrival the hospital went into what they call “diversion.”

Diversion means that they turn patients away because of a lack of space to receive them. Other area hospitals from Rome to Cartersville to Marietta, to name a few, had already begun turning people away, so they were all showing up at Redmond in search of care.

When I showed up to be with Mom, the waiting area was packed and the cots and wheelchairs and gurneys were beginning to line the walls of the emergency room.

Mom had lucked up, arriving before the crowd and ending up with a room in the ER, but it was far from perfect.

As I write we are still in the ER, still hoping for a regular room, and still reeling from the chaos that this staff is having to deal with.

I’m sure you have heard that one problem with covid is that the hospitals cannot handle the extra influx of patients. What we are watching unfold here is exactly what we have all heard, but unless you have experienced it, it is hard to really understand how dire the situation can be.

I’ve learned from conversations with several people that this is the first time Redmond has had to resort to diversion.

From what we are witnessing, there are a lot of different bugs going around right now that are making people very sick, so the added quotient of covid patients is overwhelming an already heavy load of sick people in need of care.

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the matter, but the first thing I have gleaned from this experience is that we all need to be keeping ourselves as healthy as possible. Take your vitamins, get good rest, do whatever you can to keep yourself strong against all of these germs that are floating around.

But, it isn’t just germs we should be worried about. Many of the folks waiting for a room are here for reasons that are completely unrelated to germs.

How are those New Year resolutions coming along? Have you been eating and drinking less and exercising and meditating more?

No matter what health issues you are already struggling with, now is the time to work even harder to get yourself strong. I sure hope that I and everyone I love can avoid finding ourselves in this spot anytime soon.

If you do find yourself in a pickle such as this, though I’m knocking on wood that you don’t, it is important to keep a positive attitude and understand that everyone around you is having a hard time, too.

Hot heads are always going to show up in stressful situations and I’ve heard some pretty mean things being said to the hospital staff. But, you would never know that they are feeling the strain. Every single caregiver we have engaged with has been kind, compassionate and patient while trying to juggle the intense care of folks that far exceed the appropriate space available.

Our arrival and settling in was made so much easier under the care of our first nurse, Hayley. She was particularly gifted at dealing with the struggles with a smile on her face, a quick wit and a creative solution to every problem.

It takes a high degree of grace to maintain a positive outlook as the bullets fly around you, especially when some of them are aimed right at your head. Our inclination is to duck or run screaming or shoot back.

Hayley arrived smiling and offering whatever she could think of every single time she opened the door. When we realized we were going to be there for the night, she made it her mission to rally the troops to find Mom a real bed to replace the hard gurney she had occupied all day with her feet hanging off the end.

The television wasn’t working and Hayley messed with it throughout the day until the cleaning lady told us it would only work with a separate remote from down the hall. It was a small thing, but she was so excited to be able to give us that one more level of comfort in the midst of chaos.

We could all learn to be better caregivers as well as better patients from watching Hayley work.

With every difficult stage of this situation I have noticed there has consistently been an opportunity for a positive perspective. It is a lot easier to keep a smile on your face in the face of adversity if you can look for those concessions.

Trust me, there has been plenty to complain about and lots of ways that we could have felt sorry for ourselves, but thanks to Hayley and her fellow professionals, we were able to stay positive and make the best of the situation.

How do we survive a pandemic health crisis and overload? Take our vitamins, take good care of our bodies at every opportunity, and always, always be kind to ourselves and those around us. We can do this, if we all work together and look for the brighter side.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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