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55-Word Stories

photo of HEB bridge looking west on 39th Ave

Sharing our experiences in health care—especially during intense, emotional or stressful times—increases our connectedness and well-being.

The 55-Word Stories project, created by the University of Washington School of Medicine and recreated here with permission, offers an opportunity for our community members to express their emotions and experiences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal is to write a story, in 55 words or less, to understand, appreciate or process something about the impact, response or practice of medicine and delivery of healthcare at this moment. If you are interested in participating, submit your story (login required). Stories are posted below with permission.

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Time Taken From Me
Facing COVID-19. Life still moved while the world froze. Come fall, hoping the end was near, my mom fell sick with COVID, vent-11 days, 12 days rehab, hospital 1 month total. During this time my aunt had a stroke. Then my uncle died. Then I struggled with a miscarriage. Then my Great-Uncle died. And now my Great-Grandma died. So much was taken, so little was gained. Thankful for my friends and family who stood by my side and still do. Life moved on while the World stood still, don't take time for granted, it still moves when you don't want it to but overcoming the hardships will bring strength for the future...
by Anonymous, nurse

Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy
Time lost all meaning. Holidays? Try not to cry on camera. What's it like to hug mom again? Can pandemics cause broken heart syndrome? "Medical students will self-diagnose", maybe too much Step studying. Still following guidelines; family frustrated. I'm hurting too, Grandma. Future physicians set examples. Being "over it" of it won't end the pandemic.
by Tiffany Killblane, medical student

Fall is Almost Here
I usually look forward to fall: pumpkin spice, cooler temps, back to school. Not this year. I worry about the flu, about COVID-19, about kids really learning in hybrid schools. I worry about my parents who are still well; will they make it through the flu season unscathed? When will I get to see them again? It has been almost a year. Family trips out of state can't happen, too much risk. This makes me sad. I am tired of being socially distant from those I love.
by Anonymous, faculty

Just a little more time
Just a little more time till this passes Just a little more time at home Just a little more time for toilet paper Just a little more time behind a mask Just a little more time for a vaccine Just a little more time for results She asked me for just a little more time
by Anonymous, resident/fellow

What will I tell the kids about 2020?
We put you back in school so we could keep working. We filled weekends with forts and living room picnics. We talked with you often about racism and injustice. We taught you about your power- to keep yourselves safe, to protect others, and to create change. You slept well. We did not.
by Anonymous, support staff

Just a little more time
Just a little more time till this passes Just a little more time at home Just a little more time for toilet paper Just a little more time behind a mask Just a little more time for a vaccine Just a little more time for results She asked me for just a little more time
by Anonymous, resident/fellow

The fork in the path
Do we send them do we not, repeat, today the decision is to send them. She started pre-k today and cried leaving us. She is so precious- so small, but so brave. I hope we chose the right fork. The easiest choice is now terrifying.
by Anonymous, support staff

Just a little more time
Just a little more time till this passes Just a little more time at home Just a little more time for toilet paper Just a little more time behind a mask Just a little more time for a vaccine Just a little more time for results She asked me for just a little more time
by Anonymous, resident/fellow

Unbelievable 2020
Dear loved ones passed away; no funerals/celebration of lives lived. Isolated grief. Sad endings with no meaning. Children grieving the loss of special lifetime experiences. Masks, hand sanitizer, socially distanced. People have turned on each other and instead of love and support, hate grows faster than COVID. Mass hysteria, the world's gone mad.
by Anonymous, support staff

Asleep at the wheel
Six-Thirty AM Tuesday morning and the roads are deserted. Stopping at a red light and there is no cross traffic in sight. BP is going up must remain calm. Thought I caught something furry moving to by right. Could be big foot or a large squirrel?  Lights are green and I am on the move.
by Anonymous, support staff

Consoler of the Lonely
Alone with my thoughts, driving into work, just long enough to summon courage to tell my lifelong friend I'm too high risk to attend his wedding. I refuse to potentially spread this to people I love. Tears of frustration develop. Searching for anything to wipe them away, I find only one thing. My cloth mask.
by Adam Blevins, PharmD, pharmacist

I wonder if it was like this during the Blitz. Waiting. Always waiting. Waiting for a bomb to fall upon your house. Wondering is tonight the night. Wondering when it will hit your street, your block, your house. Wondering if you'll die in your bed, caught unawares. Waiting. Waiting for death. For destruction. Always waiting.
by Greta Ford Chaar, nurse

People All People Old, young, male, female Fever, weak, vomiting, masks, isolated, lonely PAIN Healing, phone calls, friends, baking, cards Taking control, getting tested, finding a cure All people Stronger
by Anonymous, program manager

I am an introvert.
I love this new work from home situation in which we have found ourselves. My team has regular check-ins, so I don't feel isolated from them. I like not commuting. I like seeing my flowers bloom outside my office window as I work. I'm not ready for things to go "back to normal."
by Anonymous, support staff

Gramma Maggie
COVID consumes my life. I need perspective. My Gramma Maggie whispers, "Be strong, this too shall pass." Gramma died of consumption in a TB sanitarium, without hope. Today, her death would be preventable. Tomorrow, we may find vaccines and treatments for COVID. Until then, Gramma reminds me, "Patients are people. Comfort them, and yourself."
by Anonymous, faculty

I am Next - Let Me Help.
Medicine attracts people energized by others. Didactic students prisoners, isolated, insomnia, helpless. How much longer? Worry for mentors, residents, colleagues. Frustrated. Will scribe, examine, be your eyes and ears. Lower mortality. Dean warned "Career is never without risk". Is protecting me doing harm? Teach me; don't shield. I am the next "frontline". Let me help.
by Anonymous, medical student

Social Dissonance
It's six AM. Or is it noon? Who cares? People are scared outside, about getting sick or getting shot. People are angry at people who aren't. Is it bad that I'm just delighted at getting into medical school? I'm safe; I pray for everyone who may not be. I think about joining them one day.
by Kim Younger, medical student

Can you schedule a meeting? Where is the label maker? Has the mail gone out? Book this flight? Pay this invoice? Order boxed lunches? Proof this document? Troubleshoot IT? Fix the copier? COVID-19 Laptop at the kitchen table. Birds chirping Silence Kids playing Silence Lawnmower Silence Silence. Silence. Silence. Anybody need anything? Is anybody there?
by Anonymous, support staff

My heart beats for the patients we care for for this is not a job it is a calling But my heart also beats for my people at home And what can I bring my people at home When every breath comes with fear It makes it hard to breathe It makes me scared to come home
by Anonymous, clinical researcher

Babies have pure love
I feared my newborn child's safety at a new daycare. The daycare followed intense protocols: Everyone must mask up, temperature checks on baby, and I hand him over at the front. The worries of a new mom intensified, yet every day that I pick him up, he squeals at seeing my mask covered smile.
by Anonymous, resident/fellow

We know how this story ends
A pandemic is a cause for uncertainty and anxiety. This is unique because of its scale and ubiquity, yet these are not unfamiliar emotions in life. Without hope, these can seduce and overwhelm. Grounded in the light of the Christian Faith, however, we will "Be not afraid!"
by Benjamin Westerhaus, resident/fellow

Grief Will Keep
She's gone. Fiercely guarded, but now ash. How does one navigate a pandemic without their touchstone? Oh, time to go to work? OK, sorry. Back to work, hi ho, hi ho Don't mind my sobs behind my closed door, closed mask Front line needed. Pistons need to pump. Grief will keep...
by Anonymous, support staff

Facing our fears
There was a blur of fear and questions. I was thrown into the ring. Fit tests. Emails. Donning. Doffing. We became the unit, became heroes. We grew strong despite the fear. Then everyone wanted to forget COVID. Now we're still the unit, facing those fears every day, but forgotten.
by Anonymous, nurse

March 19: Soon son, soon. April 19: Soon son, very soon. May 19: Soon son, hang in there! June 19: I really think it's soon, son! July 19: I'm not sure if it's soon, son. We weep; I weep for him, and him me. August 15: IT HAS TO BE SOON, SON. Composed in Honor.
by Anonymous, faculty

Hey Siri, What Does a Pandemic Mean for Us?
A notification reading, "COVID19 has officially been declared a Global Pandemic" pops up on my phone. I announce the news to my boss who's in the room, and she replies, "So what does that really mean?"   I said, "That it's bigger than an epidemic."   We laughed, and then our laughter turned into a nervous one. 
by Anonymous, nursing student

55 Words
They just started preschool. Met a friend. Learned how to find their name. To sing a song.   Then the virus came and took it all away. Friends hurting. Family sick.   You're high risk. It could be you. You're negative, this time.  Stay home for your safety. Cases soar.  So, when do you wanna come back?
by Anonymous, support staff

Every breath you take
Can't breathe. Scared, terrified patients await test results. Infection, death, broken hearts. Closed businesses, unemployment, empty highways. Social distancing, isolation, loneliness, masks, gloves, social unrest, Black Lives Matter. Can't breathe. Care givers unite, hope reinforced by unselfish strangers, redistribution of wealth, pitching in to keep it safe and real. Breathe deeply and gratefully.
by Linnea Fiedler, support staff

There is no comparison
NORMAL: Wake up early. Rush shower. Rush kids. Coffee? Chug it while sitting in traffic - 45 minutes. Late to work, damn red lights. Forgot lunch. COVID: Wake up early. Go running, then shower. Kids have no school, let them sleep. Sip coffee. 7:45 AM. Pours another cup. Turns on computer. This is nice.
by Anonymous, support staff

My New World
Walking the dogs with my teenagers every evening. Zoom meetings in a makeshift office in my bedroom. My dogs and cat at my side all day long. High anxiety (especially in March/April). Fear of COVID 19 the first time I went back to campus. Lunch breaks on the back porch. Found time from not commuting.
by Erin Manuel, support staff

A Day In The Life
Today I woke up at 8:00 in the morning, put on my clothes, and logged in to class. One of my classmates changed their avatar, that's nice. What did the teacher say? It cut out on my end. When classes ends, I guess I'll practice physical therapy on myself. What day is it? Tuesday? Huh.
by Adam Schnacker, health professions student

The New Normal
Class from bed. Brady Bunch meetings. Patients status (+/-). White coats for BLM. Celebrating Pride (virtually). Houseparty/Hangouts. Always distant. Always masked. When will I adjust to The New Normal?
by Anonymous, nursing student

Medical Assistants day
Up drinking coffee, knowing it'll be the last one to feel my breath today. Driving awaiting the change that is daily. Gown, gloves, Goggles, breath in and out to be sure. Cars line up, people scared. Give assurance, confidence, test for virus. Home, strip, Lysol, shower. Kiss my kids goodnight. Rest up for tomorrow's surprises.
by Natasha Busch, medical assistant and nursing student

All this time.
Home. All this time. How Strange. Shouldn't I have to go? Nope. Sit tight. Oh look! Out the window. A tree. Flowers. Birds! Nice. I never noticed. Oh look! That chair fits here. So much better. I never noticed. Oh look! A dripping faucet. A sticking door. Dust everywhere. I never noticed. All this time.
by Anonymous, support staff

Moving Forward
I have a hard time breathing these days. There's a physical weight on my chest that is more than mental stress. Repopulating campus and reopening the economy gives me severe anxiety. What will this new normal look like? I have a family - a baby - to protect. I'm scared, but we also have to move forward.
by Michelle V., support staff

Only time will tell
My daughters and I are all health professionals in different cities/environments. When Covid hit and our nation closed down, my fears for family health soared, especially for my daughters who are front line health care providers. Fear has not subsided, feelings of sadness due to isolation from kids/grandkids is overwhelming sometimes. Only time will tell!
by Anonymous, outreach and navigation

God Gave Me You
For the first time that I can recall, the contributions of our profession have become center stage. Thank you for the early mornings, the long days, the late nights. Thank you for safely conducting much needed COVID-19 testing despite the personnel shortages & extended shifts while risking your own health. Thank you, Medical Laboratory Scientists!
by Anonymous, faculty

the visible in the invisible
education amidst COVID-19 requires simultaneously being present while letting go bonds of trust are forged when the future is unknown we innovate and learn new ways to educate being alone together allows the opportunity to develop insight into one's own nature when the student is ready, a Zen teacher appears - disguised as a pandemic
by Patty Cook, support staff

Moving windows
Moving windows in my home, with faces known in secret places where I would not be welcomed in person. Meeting like this is new; it is personal but removed, a screen generating this connection with my peers. A fake connection. It makes no sense. I do not want to see your faces like this anymore.
by Anonymous, medical student