X-Message-Number: 22748
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 21:11:45 -0800 (PST)
From: Christine Gaspar <>
Subject: the final chapter on sars- hopefully


  I haven't posted a SARS update in a while. To be honest, the storm seems to 
  have subsided, for now. I thank everyone for the positive feedback I received 
  after posting these updates to the cryonics community.

  I want to post an article, that was written by a friend of mine, who is also a
  colleague. She, like me, felt it necessary to document our experiences. I am 
  hoping that this letter is the final chapter in the SARS nightmare, and that 
  this book can be closed forever.       

  Permission was obtained from the author, to post this article on cryonet. Its 
  original publication was on the RNAO journal- the Registered Nurses 
  Association Of Ontario. I hope you enjoy it, and get a better sense of our 
  subjective experience.
Christine Gaspar
Behind the Mask

One nurse recounts her journey through the storm winds of SARS   a poignant 
reminder that rising to a crisis is the only way to survive.

by Karen Ellacott
Karen Ellacott

Author Eva Hoffman has written that  nothing fully exists until it is 
articulated.  My attempt to write about the profound impact SARS has had on my 
personal and professional life relates to my need to bring it into full 

It has been a strange journey through the up-ending of my world.A bizarre sense 
of unreality has been my constant companion as I ve wandered, dazed, through 
what feels like a bad dream. I m told that  in the revealing is the healing.  So
I struggle through many attempts to find the words that will transform the raw,
subjective experience reverberating in my emotional depths into a story that 
can be told. And into a reality that  fully exists. 

In March I arrive for work to a changed world. I endure my first screening, fill
out forms, wait in line, have my temperature checked and am chastised for not 
having my ID with me. Bewildered, I make my way through the emerg staff entrance
and encounter the re-designation of the area to a  clean  zone where I don the 
now requisite gowns, gloves, masks and goggles.

I negotiate note writing, medication mixing, and a multitude of other tasks with
my dexterity impaired by gloves.

Nothing, however, compares to the mask. A pounding headache, lethargy and 
disorientation appear a short time into each shift and last through the 
remaining long hours. I quadruple check my medications, terrified of making an 
error through the mental fog with which I must now contend.

I periodically duck into an empty room to attach myself to an oxygen outlet and 
mask in an attempt to counter the C02 build-up in my system and relieve the 

In late-March I assist with the difficult intubation of a health-care worker. I 
later learn that colleagues at another facility con-tracted SARS from such an 
intubation and it becomes apparent that current precau-tions are not sufficient.
Our protective clothing requirement is increased to two layers and I pray that 
this has not come too late for those of us who struggled to save a colleague s 
life that night.

While carrying out the labour intensive screening tests on a suspect patient, I 
become over-heated under all the layers, dizzy and light-headed from lack of 
air.As I m drawing blood samples, the sweat begins to trickle down my face, my 
goggles fog over and my face shield sticks to my skin. I blow puffs of air up 
across my own face to try and get through the procedure. I hope I don t faint 
from heat and hyperventilation. My patient is terrified. I squeeze his hand with
my vinyl coated one and try to reassure him in the face of dreadful uncertainty
and our mutual fear.

I miss the smiles of my colleagues. I learn to recognize people, whose faces and
hair are shrouded in barriers, by just their eyes. I m sure the colour and 
shape of all my co-worker s eyes will be forever imprinted on my memory as we 
learn to communicate with the nuances and subtleties of a gaze alone.

With suspect suddeness, we re informed that SARS is over.

We re not as elated as might be expected. Despite our freedom to work 
unencumbered by the layers, many will not remove the protection. We are not so 
sure that this thing is over. We continue to see patients whose symptoms defy 
the news that SARS is done, that we are safe. We treat several members of one 
family who are sick with fevers and whose chest X-rays reveal the dreaded 
infiltrates. Red flags are raised and are countered with reassurances. Alarm 
bells are muted with the insistence that all is well.

And so it is, in defiance of the assertion that without a known link there can 
be no SARS, we find ourselves in the epicentre of a second outbreak. The storm 
winds blow far more vicious this second time around.

Our workplace becomes a  level 3  facility and is transformed into what looks 
like the set of a science fiction movie. I am ordered into quarantine and feel 
as though such a restriction could apply only to some plague-threatened 
inhabitant of the Middle Ages. I venture out just to travel to work. Our emerg

shuts down, but our ill colleagues stream in.The hospital takes on the feel of a
ghost town. Sheets of plastic hang from floor to ceiling and I wander, in 
shock, through these makeshift, desolate corridors. I see nurses and physicians 

I volunteer for the SARS intensive care unit where I encounter the very worst of
this disease and its ravages. One weekend I am assigned to the care of a fellow
nurse. She has a son the same age as mine and is living out what could easily 
be my fate.

I stroke her hair and talk to her through the pharmacological paralysis and 
heavily sedated state she is in. I whisper the names of her husband and children
to her and pass on their messages; they are healthy and they love her. I 
encourage her in her fight to recover so she can go home to them.

When some religious articles are delivered to the room, I hang the rosary and 
holy water from the cardiac monitor. I place the picture of Jesus to look down 
on her. I go home and write up my will.



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