By Maj. Laurie MacAfee, Nevada National Guard Occupational Health Nurse
This pandemic continues to test our resolve and patience. We are all tired of being told to wear masks and practice distancing, but this is the only way we can protect our families, community and economy, especially as we near winter and cases spike to record levels in Clark and Washoe counties.
As the Nevada National Guard’s occupational health nurse, I’ve witnessed the best of our state in its response to the pandemic. More than 1,150 Nevada Guardsmen entered state active duty orders in support of Nevadans — neighbors helping neighbors — during the pandemic, assisting county health districts at community based collection sites, COVID mapping, food distribution and movement of personal protective equipment. It was the largest state activation in Nevada Guard history.
As we honor the men and women in our armed forces this Veterans Day, please remember everything they do to defend this country, and everything they’ve done this year to protect Nevadans during the pandemic. It’s truly been an unprecedented, Herculean effort. We are in this together, but if we don’t continue to take mitigation efforts — mask on to move on — it will disparage our months-long endeavor to keep our state safe.
Taking simple mitigation efforts helps us continue the hard work of Nevada Guardsmen, medical professionals, the state’s NV Health Response team and countless other citizens. We must move forward, not backward, at this critical moment. So many Nevadans have risked so much to keep us safe. A surge is predictable if we don’t work together. Our fate rests in our actions.
I experienced the virus, and it is not something to take lightly. As a member of the Nevada Guard, I exercise several times each week to maintain my physical fitness. I take an annual Army physical fitness test to remain a soldier in the Nevada Guard. But even someone like myself, a soldier in good physical health and not considered a member of groups vulnerable to the virus, struggled with COVID-19.
On June 27, I woke up with chills, body aches, a cough and a fever of 101.6. Within days, my resting heart rate, usually in the 60s, nearly doubled to 120. By day 11 with the virus, my symptoms got even worse. I consulted my primary doctor, and I thought about going to the emergency room, but I continued to monitor myself, especially my pulse and oxygen levels. I was sick for more than two weeks before my health began to return to normal.
Throughout my bout with COVID-19, I felt tremendous guilt and shame as I waited helplessly to hear if I passed the virus to someone else. It’s hard to understand until you you’ve been diagnosed with the virus. I spent so much of my recovery agonizing over each person I came in contact, whether my fellow Guardsmen, family or friends. I prayed every night that I didn’t get someone else sick. I never expected I would feel this way, but guilt and shame were without a doubt the worst part of having the virus.
For your health, the health of those around you and our state’s ability to remain open and safe, please mask on to move on and maintain social distance. We must remain vigilant in this effort — together.
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