“Every hospital I have volunteered with the last few days has a strong plan in place to treat the sick and is maintaining a strong positive, hopeful spirit.”
Cheryl Nadolny has a bachelor of science degree in nursing and has studied infectious diseases. Her specialty as a nurse at one local hospital was wound care, while she currently works for a detox recovery outpatient group as a sobriety coach, and as a secretary for a recovery group on the North Shore.
As you might imagine, she’s in the thick of it right now. Still, she’s trying to do more.
“If you are retired and your license is in good standing, they are fast-tracking all recertifications so they can have a surplus of nurses to be called on in the event of a large number of patients overflowing the hospitals,” Nadolny told me. She is in contact with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing, and is hoping “to work in the back-up nursing pool at Holy Family Hospital on the North Shore as part of the mobile testing team.”
In the meantime, she’s doing everything she can to help out during the coronavirus crisis. I asked Nadolny about volunteering in these times, support structures, and the cannabis community during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Why are you starting a drive to collect masks and other personal protective equipment?
It [is] very clear … that nurses and doctors will not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) while battling a huge infectious disease outbreak. From my background as a charge nurse, we required a certain number of gowns, masks, gloves, protective facial shields, and hair guards for each infectious disease patient. Hospitals typically only have a small percentage of patients on infectious disease precautions, now we are predicting all of the patients coming in with COVID-19. From watching what has been going on in Italy and being in touch with a colleague over there I quickly realized that we are facing a huge protective equipment shortage.
[A March 19 letter from Massachusetts Nurses Association President Donna Kelly-Williams to Governor Charlie Baker, HHS Secretary MaryLou Sudders, and the Massachusetts legislature read: “Because patients can be COVID-19 positive without any symptoms, we are advocating that every healthcare worker who comes into contact with patients must be provided with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) that can guard against the spread of COVID-19. At this point we should assume that all patients are COVID-19 positive. The inability to effectively segregate patients quickly, as well as the lack of available testing with quick results, has left us with co-mingled patients and the virus is ahead of us. It is not an issue of assigning blame, it is simply an issue of reality and therefore this approach is the only effective strategy going forward.”]
Do you think the federal and state government will be able to give adequate help?
The government is promising us all that it’s coming, but probably not for another week or two due to manufacturing, shipping, inspection time, and the fact that the whole world is facing this crisis at the same time. Nurses are all asking local trade schools, businesses, beauty parlors, spas, nail salons, to consider donating what medical protective equipment they have to local hospitals or healthcare teams. I’ve started #operationPPE as a way to do that.
People can personally message me on Facebook or email me at Cleo.email@example.com and I will set up a safe place and way to pick up your items, they can ship items to us, or I can personally direct them to which facilities need equipment. I will be donating to all of the north shore hospitals that are in need—Melrose-Wakefield, Holy Family, Lahey, Winchester, Anna Jacques, Salem Hospital, and Beverly Hospital. If it’s a donation for the south shore area or western Mass, I can make arrangements. Protective masks of all kinds are what’s in highest need right now.
Who’s been helping you?
The Green Nurse Group has been amazingly supportive and helpful in this effort as well. All of the medical cannabis nurses have joined together during this crisis to do whatever we can to help and keep others educated and safe. We are a strong network and are a good support system for one another right now.
Nurses and doctors across this country are calling on the public to help us get through the next couple of weeks safely. We are being asked to go into one of the scariest battles without the right protection. Sending soldiers to war without proper boots, helmets, or weapons. [There’s] a nurse in New York who was instructed to reuse her surgical mask throughout her entire 12-hour shift and spray it off with Lysol in between patients to help prevent spread of germs; she was also instructed to reuse her gown and spray it off with disinfectant between patients. She’s one of hundreds of stories that I’ve read about just like this over the past few days.
Why do you choose to do this work?
I have many loved ones in my family who work in emergency and critical care settings. The threat to doctors and nurses, getting sick and/or dying is very high at the moment. So we need all the help we can get.
What about those reading this in other parts of the country or world, how can they help?
You can also help no matter where you are by contacting your closest hospital and asking what they need for donations. They will give you instructions on how to safely donate items to minimize risk of infection to yourself or others. Every hospital I have volunteered with the last few days has a strong plan in place to treat the sick and is maintaining a strong positive, hopeful spirit. Together I pray we all make it through.
To donate PPE gear, email Cheryl: Cleo.firstname.lastname@example.org
Lowell Makes members are also currently working on several initiatives to produce PPE, including a collaboration with nursing staff to 3D print protective masks.
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Mike Crawford is a Massachusetts medical cannabis patient and founder of The Young Jurks and midnightmass.substack.com. You can listen to The Young Jurks on iTunes or wherever else podcasts are streamed. This article was produced with support from Midnight Mass and The Young Jurks, where your contributions are greatly appreciated and help us deliver more local coverage.