Guidry: ‘Hey, are you short of breath, or do you think it’s my anxiety?’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 30, 2020

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Dear World,

The month of March started out promising. I had a birthday coming up, and it was finally time for crawfish boils and Hansen’s snowballs. Naïve to the world quickly unfolding before me, I made plans for the spring — plans to travel to the beach, plans for getting my hair and nails done and plans to watch the sunset over Lake Pontchartrain with a bottle of white wine with my girl friends. What I did not plan for was a pandemic which seemed to happen overnight. It was only a few days into March that one of the country’s most vulnerable cities, New Orleans, would suffer hundreds of mass casualties and skyrocketing unemployment rates.

COVID-19 is smart and it certainly does not discriminate by age, race or gender. Everyone is at stake or up to bat and could be victimized by a virus that we only ever saw in movies. Remember the movie Contagion? It’s like that, but not really, because this is real life and there were no outtakes, do-overs or blooper reels. Once the first COVID-19 positive patient made its way into our hospital, mental chaos ensued. My first day in our new “COVID-19 ICU,” I was terrified, and to be honest, I still am.

At first, I walked around asking my coworkers, “Hey, are you short of breath? Or do you think it’s my anxiety?” “Hey, are you coughing or do you think it’s just springtime allergies?” “Hey, can you smell today or did I maybe just wake up a little congested?”

These questions circled in my mind like a revolving hotel door.

I needed insight into the minds of everyone around me for reassurance and my own sanity. Surely, I was not the only one with these same questions.

Then, the magnitude of the virus got worse. I’ve seen so much death in the last four years in ICU, but this was torture. These sweet, caring humans have no choice but to lie there alone, unconscious, and scared while I lean over them in a “spacesuit,” asking if they can squeeze my hand for the 500th time.

Patients don’t know what I look like underneath the layers of protective equipment and neither does the family who is crying, calling me for updates on their loved ones. It’s crazy how someone has no choice but to put their trust into a 27-year-old’s voice on the other end of a cell phone because that’s the only glimmer of hope they have left. So, every morning I tell my patients what the date is and what the weather is like outside.

Some days I say it’s typical Louisiana outside — muggy and hot, and other days I say the sun is shining and the air is crisp. But regardless of the weather outside, I tell them that we will make the best of our next 12 hours together. They say all good things come to an end, but when will all bad things come to an end?


“Hey, Are You Short Of Breath, Or Do You Think It’s My Anxiety?”

Blaire Guidry

Blaire Guidry is a River Parishes native and a graduate of Destrehan High School. She was featured earlier this month in a groundbreaking photo series produced by and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses to honor Nurses Week. The series captured portraits and letters of 40 frontline critical care nurses in COVID-19 units across Louisiana. Portraits and stories can be viewed at