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Hospital Stay

While I was in the hospital, I did think quite a bit about the human and non-human mobilities I was witnessing. During my ER visit, I came into direct contact with several people, including security, admissions, triage nurse, attending physician, lab tech, CT tech, my assigned nurses, a surgical resident, and transportation. While everyone was wearing masks and often face shields or eye protection, staff in the central bay were often seen taking off their masks. I wondered about the sanitization of my emergency department room. There was no evidence of increased cleaning to bathrooms or common areas.

Prior to my admission, I was administered a rapid COVID-19 test. I was told that if it was positive, I would be admitted to the COVID wing and treated for my emergent condition. The test was negative, and I was taken to the surgical floor, which is not supposed to have any COVID positive patients, although I did notice two patient room doors that had extra droplet precautions posted on the door, with a note not to wear cloth gowns, and to leave the door closed at all times, which I found rather curious.

Once I was in my room, I was not required to wear a mask. All visitors and hospital personnel were required to wear a mask, however, I noticed people coming and going during shift change briefly not wearing masks in the hallways. Including attending physicians, residents, interns, nurses, patient care techs, lab techs, cafeteria and janitorial personnel, and visitors my room had about twenty or more different people in it daily. Additionally, the equipment like blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters didn't seem to be sanitized after each use and were taken from patient to patient. There was a constant flow of glasses of water and broth, popsicles and Jello cups, and eventually, food trays and plates in and out of my room, not knowing if anything was properly sanitized or how many different hands had touched this product by the time it reached mine. From farmers to packagers to delivery persons to stocking personnel, food prep to dining services, and delivery, just how many hands had my glass of chicken broth touched?

While my room was cleaned daily, there did not seem to be any extra effort on sanitizing door handles or faucets. Hand hygiene was somewhat lacking from the staff, but as a patient, it was difficult to maintain my own hand hygiene. Some of the staff spoke of riding on busses that were filled past the capacity restrictions, or going out to dinner, or getting a manicure. And then as part of my treatment plan, I was told to walk the halls as much as possible, where I was coming into contact with countless other people while pacing up and down the long hospital corridor. While the frontline workers did express concern and fear of COVID-19 transmission, they seemed to be going about their lives more cavalierly than the rest of us that have been in isolation. Was this a way to combat the trauma of working on the frontlines for so long?

While I was sitting in my room, I felt very vulnerable and exposed to outside forces, all of the people bringing in whatever germs and dirt they were carrying around with them all day from home and from room to room and floor to floor. I wondered why I wasn't given a rapid COVID-19 test upon my discharge. I've kept myself isolated from loved ones, friends, and family and not ventured out to the store since early March. My hospitalization exposed me to hundreds of people, objects, and surfaces. It is no wonder they say people often get sicker when they're hospitalized. After witnessing all of the mobility in my one little hospital room, and my one little hospital floor, I'm amazed the known cases of COVID-19 aren't even higher than they are now. I'm scheduling another COVID-19 test for next week.