I survived COVID after being on a ventilator, but my nightmare was far from over – USA TODAY

My spouses soothing voice was among the first things I heard when I came out of a clinically induced coma. Its also one of the very first things I hear when I find myself slipping into what I call my “dark place.”” Youre OK,” my wife ensures me. “Youre OKAY.” Since surviving COVID-19, I sometimes feel myself slip into this dark place– one where I am terrified. Lost. Uncertain.Some days the dark place comes out of nowhere. Others times it comes after fighting against anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and false information. This day, it came after hearing the news we have actually all heard too often: Someone I understand is sick.A good friend and coworker checked positive in spite of being totally vaccinated. I fretted about my friend. I stressed over myself. My friend and I remained in conversation– masked and distanced– the day before the announcement.My mind went to a bad location. And no matter what I heard my wife say, all I could think was “Will I have to do this again?” The dark location I found myself in is one much of us have found ourselves in of late.Through individual conversations with fellow COVID survivors– specifically those who were on a ventilator– I am learning the non-physical impacts of the coronavirus can be simply as debilitating as the physical ones. And while remarkable medical improvements have been made to deal with the physical symptoms of this horrendous virus, the difficult fact is that our psychological healthcare system stays stuck in pre-COVID times. In early October I was on a ventilator with COVID-related pneumonia. At age 53 with Type 2 diabetes and a couple of extra pounds, my chance of survival was far less than 50 percent. But after 11 days in the intensive care system, and thanks to the determined care of frontline heroes, I made what physician at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore called a “miraculous” recovery.More: My road to full recovery from COVID-19– like Americas– will be long and difficultBut that recovery came at an expense. I lost more than 30 pounds in less than 2 weeks; mostly muscle weight. It left me weak; not able to stroll. Physical therapy and a slow go back to my regular workout routine is assisting me recover. But psychologically, I found myself going back to my days in the healthcare facility when I was overwhelmed by the tests; the sounds, the unknowing and, many of all, the loneliness.The very first couple of nights at home I had difficulty sleeping. When I did sleep I had nightmares.More: One in three COVID-19 survivors identified with brain or mental health disorder within 6 months of infection, study findsAny news of the pandemic might easily trigger me. With every day, the spiraling death toll left me with what I now understand is survivors guilt. Conspiracy theories and claims that COVID-19 was “simply a bad flu” triggered deep anger. Why did I live when numerous didnt? One would believe hearing stories of people who have died would remind me of how lucky I am. And I do feel exceptionally blessed in surviving.With that, however, also comes the questions. “Am I doing enough to validate my presence?” “Am I living a life worthy of the efforts of my healthcare employees; worthy of the prayers sent my method?” And, of course, “Why did I live, when a lot of didnt?” Generally, my emotions are internalized. However sometimes I go to the dark place. After months of trying to assist myself, of hearing my spouses voice informing me I am OKAY however not rather believing her, I understood I needed professional help.It was then I found our nation is woefully unprepared for the psychological health pandemic we are facing.COVID-19 has introduced a psychological and emotional health crisis, specifically in minority neighborhoods like the one I reside in and represent.I are among the lucky ones who, after looking for a few weeks, was able to find a therapist who has the ability to assist me process this trauma. But many others, particularly those in communities of color and low-wage frontline workers, are not as fortunate. This gap in care is leaving us on the brink of an aggravating psychological health pandemic.We will improve– but just if we take actionThe news of increasing vaccination numbers, less U.S. infections, and continued COVID-19 federal relief has actually supplied hope for the very first time considering that March 2020. But those refusing the vaccine will trigger us to stay mired in the pandemic. Maybe most discouraging are policy makers who refuse to acknowledge the need for thorough assistance– psychological, physical, and financial– keeping us in this dark place.As a fellow policy maker, I know how tough it is to discover solutions to intricate issues like the ones we are presently dealing with. As I am discovering in my own healing from COVID, often healing begins with just one action out of the dark location. That indicates increasing access to neighborhood counseling, emergency situation health lines, and equipping very first responders with the tools they require to offer thoughtful care.It indicates putting aside partisanship and recognizing that we all desire the exact same thing– to recover and come back stronger.Its up to each people to figure out when and how to seek psychological health assistance to satisfy the new typical with purpose and strength. But it is the responsibility of our leaders to make sure that choice is readily available to everyone. I hope America can satisfy this challenge better than it met the pandemic.Doctors stated she wouldnt survive COVID: After 25 days on a ventilator, shes restoring her wedding vowsLorenzo Sierra belongs to the Arizona House of Representatives, Legislative District 19. Follow him on Twitter @Sierra4AZ

My partners relaxing voice was one of the very first things I heard when I came out of a clinically caused coma.” Since enduring COVID-19, I often feel myself slip into this dark place– one where I am frightened.” The dark location I discovered myself in is one numerous of us have found ourselves in of late.Through individual discussions with fellow COVID survivors– specifically those who were on a ventilator– I am learning the non-physical impacts of the coronavirus can be simply as crippling as the physical ones. After months of trying to assist myself, of hearing my spouses voice telling me I am OK however not rather believing her, I recognized I required expert help.It was then I discovered our nation is woefully unprepared for the mental health pandemic we are facing.COVID-19 has ushered in a psychological and psychological health crisis, specifically in minority communities like the one I live in and represent.I am one of the lucky ones who, after searching for a few weeks, was able to discover a therapist who is able to help me process this injury. Perhaps most disheartening are policy makers who refuse to acknowledge the need for detailed support– mental, physical, and financial– keeping us in this dark place.As a fellow policy maker, I understand how hard it is to find services to complicated issues like the ones we are presently dealing with.

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