Dear World,

In the beginning, there were a lot of crazy eyes. Pure fear.


Eye language might be the purest form of communication.

I guess I didn’t realize that until spending all of my time in the ICU covered head to toe. When you’re fully suited up, nary a hair is exposed. And really the only piece of humanity you can see in your colleagues is their eyes.

So, we adapted and began to rely less on verbal cues and more on our body language and our eyes.

Eyes? They never lie.

There’s “I”m alright, not really” eyes.

There’s “I’m scared” eyes

There’s “I need help” eyes

There’s “I’m relieved” eyes

There’s “I’m proud” eyes

There’s “I’m tired” eyes

It’s kind of like a small furrow of the brow, a little frown. This one takes a little bit of trust and knowledge of the person. But when you know each other, you know the, “I’m alright, not really” eyes.

In the beginning there were a lot of, “I’m scared” eyes. Wide, pupils dilated, shifty. We all had these at some point.

With all the new protective gear we had to wear, all we had to communicate with each other were our eyes.

I could come and say, “How are you doing today?” and your face underneath could be a frown, but your eyes can be like, “I'm alright.” Yet, you know your co-workers, you know each other, so I can tell by your eyes that you're not alright.

And that's how we've been having to communicate with each other.

I can put my hair into a big bouffant hat. I can put the bunny suit on, and I just become a set of eyes. Everybody’s a set of eyes.

Before, everybody knew who you were, what your title was. They could recognize you. But now, it’s completely different. Everybody puts on all the garb and all of a sudden, you're all the same and you don't know who is who.

I think you learn right away how to identify the person. You look a little deeper. Instead of just seeing each other for recognition, you have to really look at the person. You have to really look at them and read their eyes.

In the beginning, there were a lot of crazy eyes. Pure fear.

Fearful eyes are a little bit bigger and more shifty. They’re  looking around for a support person — nurse, friend, buddy, the one who usually has your back.

Then, when they look at me it's for help. Helpful eyes are more of a serious look, with a scrunched-up face, like, “Hey, we need this, can you get this for us? We really need this and this isn't working.”

Then, of course, you have the stressful eyes as they're taking care of the patients. It’s different from fearful eyes, because they're not afraid of the situation or how to take care of the patient. The stress is more of the, we're working, we're working, we're working, we're doing what we know we need to do.

Which leads to just tired eyes. You’re mentally tired.

Then, there’s when whatever you’re trying isn’t working. I don’t know if guilty is the right word, but maybe very disappointed, because I've done what I've been trained to do all my life, and these patients aren't getting better.

There’s just real, deep sadness.

We lost at least five patients that affected everybody, because they were there for weeks, and we were there fighting to get these people back.

We had some interaction with a family member, and the husband, then we found out the wife got sick, so she's at a different hospital. He's fighting for his life. Nobody can visit.

You're trying to do the iPad thing, and let people see him, but it’s not the same because the patient's alone, and you're the only person they have. They're dying. And it's so heartbreaking and it's so sad and it just tears your heart out.

That's all we had with everybody. Seeing through their eyes.


We Read Eyes

Tara Porter


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