Written Story by Matt

My pandemic experience started with a call from my manager: You have been exposed, isolate  yourself from others. Call us back if anything happens. 

It felt like I had been bitten by a zombie and they were waiting to see if I’ll turn. 

Being exposed to illness is something I’ve expected, I work as a X-ray Tech. TB is not a stranger.  We in diagnostic imaging are on the front line with doctors and nurses, often not fully  appreciated though. 

As a X-ray tech I was essential in the COVID ward. I would go through the air lock into my space  suit and take portable xrays of patients. There were some times we wished we could go to the  ward. One summer the fires were so bad the hospital was so full of smoke the fire alarms kept  going off. Breathing that filtered air in our COVID space suits was a real treat. 

I got into Xray because I wanted to help patients along their path to wellness. Shooting xrays of  knees and hips for replacement planning and seeing them recover and feel better after. It made  me feel like I was working in the land of sunshine and rainbows. 

It changed, the patients stopped leaving. The COVID ward was crazy. It slid into wild west  territory. Doctors were trying to do everything to keep these people alive. I remember helping  get ECMO set up, we never do ECMO. Our medical interventions could bypass the heart and  lungs, it was often the kidneys that failed. There was something about how the pH couldn’t be  correct with the amount of CO2 in the blood. 

When patients were discharged It was a celebration. Music would play in the halls. 

I remember x-raying someone close to my own age in the COVID ward. When your young you  think you’re invincible, that it’s only going to be like the flu at worst. Seeing this patient  intubated, alone; that could be me. They were drugged to be paralyzed and to reduce  sensations from the choking of the tube down their throat. I was told the patients were still  awake. 

I volunteer for a graveyard shift Christmas eve to give my coworkers a break. It’s Christmas morning in the COVID ward. My patient has their family on a screen, there’s a nurse bedside  saying comforting, compassionate things. It looks grim, no one is supposed to die on Christmas. 

Days pass, that patient doesn’t appear on the lists anymore. 

But then, a few months ago they’re in the ER. I’m X-raying them, they’re still sick, and in the  middle of the exam they mention that I sound familiar. They say how much they appreciate the  gentle care they received, that the staff was so nice, that they could remember how I cared for  them. I was so surprised they weren’t dead, but you can’t say that to patients. Instead I say: I’m  so happy to see you today.

For a moment it felt like I was back in the land of sunshine and rainbows.