Healing Reflections: "End of Day" by Charles Nordstrom, M.D.

Jan 6, 2021 | Hannah Schlotthauer, Administrative Assistant | @schlohan

"End of Day"
Story by: Charles Nordstrom, M.D. | Mayo Clinic Health System

My twelve-hour shift complete, sunset long past, I step outside the hospital into the frigid night air.  My hands are still wet from the final scrub of alcohol foam, and immediately register the artic temperature as I race to shove them into gloves. Making my way to the car through icy winds, the stifling warmth and humidity of my N95 mask feels welcome for the first time that day. Nevertheless, I experience an almost euphoric sense of liberation once I am behind the wheel and can safely pull it from my face. I drive home, breathing deeply and freely while my hunger pangs increase both with frequency and intensity as I approach my destination.

Once the garage door has closed behind me, I climb out of the car into the chilly garage, my feet scrunching on the accumulated road salt and sand from weeks of winter driving. I pause at the back door and brace myself for the next step. My breath frosting the air before me, I peel off my overcoat and doff my scrubs, working quickly to shove the used garments into the laundry bag. Wearing only boxer shorts, I race through the door and into the warmth of the back hallway.

The children are finishing dinner and clamor to their feet as they hear me enter. Since they were old enough to walk, they have always met me in a rush at the door to welcome me home. The typical barrage of excited hugs has always been the highlight to my workday; however, now they all stop short with the awareness I had been exposed all day to the virus.  We settle for ‘air hugs’ and warm smiles as I slip upstairs to shower.

As the shower comes up to temperature, I briefly pause to examine my face in the mirror. The telltale indentations from the N95 mask are still impressed upon my nose and cheekbones. Overnight they will fade, and the tenderness at the bridge of my nose should be mostly gone by the start of my next shift.

Showered and ready for bed by 8 p.m., my dinner is retrieved from the warmer. As I eat, I field the usual questions:

“How many COVID patients were there today?”

“A lot, the ER was full when I left too.”

“Did anyone die?”

“None of my patients did today, but we had to put one man on a breathing machine.”

Later, lying in bed, I briefly scan the headlines. Cases continue to climb, deaths continue to accumulate, yet there is hope with new vaccines that are expected to be approved. Exhausted, I stretch out, but the day still encroaches on my thoughts. The panicked look on my patient’s face as I told him we needed to move him to critical care. The anxious daughter I updated by phone. The tearful nurse practitioner who shared her despair with me after losing another patient, this time a grandfather who had contracted the virus at his granddaughter’s first birthday party.

I look at the clock which now reads 10:30 P.M. I make an effort to clear my mind, allowing sleep to overtake me. The next twelve-hour shift starts at daybreak.


Art by: Ray Kaselau | Eau Claire, WI

At the age of twelve I built a model of the 1989 Batman Gotham City out of cardboard. That’s when I discovered my passion for creating immersive spaces and the joyful experiences art and design can offer. With a degree in Visual Communications, I have worked for over 15 years primarily as a graphic and concept designer. My work has contributed to many major retailers, fortune 100 companies, as well as, children’s museums, civic organizations, as well as the visual development phase of the Healing Reflections mural. As an artist and designer, it’s important to always learn new tools to continually improve one’s ability for creative problem-solving. I strongly believe as Joseph Campbell said, “Follow Your Bliss."

The story held such personal details of what the author experienced as a medical staff member entering his personal life which I found is very relatable. The paragraphs were very descriptive in a way that I could clearly see the moments as sequential panels.


For more information about the Healing Reflections gallery or to get involved with the project, contact Sara Martinek.

To discuss the latest on Post-COVID Syndrome, head over to the Post-COVID Recovery discussion group.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Post-COVID Recovery blog.

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