Crystal L. Mielke

Critical Care Nurse

It’s not easy developing a hobby as a 38-year-old mom to a 2-year-old. 

You know what else isn’t easy? Being a Medical ICU nurse, turned COVID ICU nurse overnight without being asked. 

In 2018, before COVID was a word the entire world knew, I just wanted to grow lettuce. No government recalls. No worrying about getting sick. Just fresh from the garden romaine lettuce, maybe some tomatoes. My husband loves them. 

I had a couple raised garden beds. Planted my seeds. From March to April, watched them grow as I also found gardening supplies quickly difficult to find. Canning jars? Gone. Container pot for berries? Out of stock. 

What else was out of stock? The size N95 mask I wore. I would fight with nursing supervisors for gowns for my frontline nurses who needed to go into isolation rooms. The FDA gave clearance that, if needed, healthcare workers could wear the same gloves in between patients. I bought kitchen gloves as a backup for work. 

I’d come home to my small city backyard in Cleveland proper, leave my phone somewhere else, and water what plants I had. It offered serenity and excitement when the real world surrounding me force fed fear and death. I’d go from a world of watching patients struggling with an invisible virus, slowly killing them, robbing their loved ones of potential opportunities, to a small homestead where birds sang, my child played and tomatoes blossomed. 

Even as I struggled with this monster virus myself, as my intestines felt like they were being tortured, my lungs couldn’t oxygenate, I could barely remember what I did a few moments before, I knew I had to go to my happy place. Even if I struggled to stand. But I was alive. 

As the summer passed and autumn and winter said their farewell, it was time to determine what to plant for my homestead’s second year. 30 tomato plants? Why not. 3 eggplants that I’ll probably take to work? Sure. A total of 12 pepper plants? No problem. The trauma from COVID will never go away, yet I can fix the early trauma to a tomato that has blossom end rot. 

We all start as seeds. Metamorphose into flowers. Some white. Some yellow. Then these little round or misshapen spheres. Individual characteristics show. Purple stripes. Bright red. Yellow. We’re all tomatoes. Let’s forever protect our own gardens from bugs, invisible or not.

Author Bio

Crystal L. Mielke, BSN, RN, CCRN, is an alumna of Kent State University, and works as a Medical/COVID Critical Care Nurse at University Hospitals of Cleveland. When she’s not at work, she enjoys traveling, gardening with her husband and son and listening to true-crime podcasts.

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