Living Life and Staying Safe in the Time of COVID-19

By Laura Block, PharmD, NREMT

We need to talk about the gorilla in the room… The same gorilla as before, but the guidelines, they keep changing. Why is that?

Because this is a novel disease, something we’ve never seen before. We’re pushing out information as soon as we think we have a handle on it, and then we get schooled by the virus again, and the information changes. Information flows faster now than it ever did before, so you get to see how science itself ebbs and flows. Science has always been this way, but we’ve never before had the ability to communicate it as fast as it happens.

Keep in mind that the United States is not the only country dealing with this. All around the globe, teams of scientists are learning about COVID-19 as fast as they can, looking for preventative practices, tests, treatments, and a vaccine. The best test or treatment or vaccine may come from somewhere else, so keep in mind that if things look bleak here in the US, it may look a lot brighter somewhere else, and we’ll all benefit soon from their new discoveries.

That all being said, here’s what we know at the end of May 2020:

  • Try to stay at least 6 feet apart from other people.

These are really the most important things to keep in mind. We are currently less concerned about inanimate objects (fomites) possibly transmitting the virus from person to person.

While we wait for a vaccine and effective treatments, take extra good care of yourself. Treat yourself. Go for a walk. Eat a vegetable. Listen to your favorite music. Reach out to friends and family over telephone or internet, and make sure you’re seeing some faces daily. Lower the bar a little: don’t beat yourself up because the house is messy, you put on some weight, or it’s hard to focus. Read a good book. Indulge in a bubble bath. Do a random act of kindness every day: not only will you make someone else’s day, it will make your day much brighter.

Sequestered Sanity: A How-To

by Jennifer Clark, LMSW, and Mickey Desai

So, here we are, social distancing.  We are working from home. We are ordering take out.  We are staying away from our favorite exhibits, restaurants, and events.  If you’re like us, you miss people. And even if you’re just a massive introvert, social contact is still a part of healthy living. 

Social Isolation and Loneliness are Serious Health Issues

A Brigham Young University study suggests that the conditions of isolation or loneliness can be as bad as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.  But the public health world adamantly maintains isolating is the right way to flatten the curve of contagion.  And they’re right.  Isolating is the right thing to do, even if it makes us a little loopy.  But you are not alone. The whole world is isolating with you. Maddening paradox, right?  Look, even if we’re not physically together, we will pull through this pandemic together. Here’s our recipe for doing this the right way.  This is a long recipe, but you’re worth it. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Stay Informed, But…

If you have to watch the news, partake mindfully.  Consider seeking out news online or via newspaper rather than by listening to the radio or watching TV.  When you use a live medium, the news–good or bad–pours over you without any control, and it’s sometimes difficult to filter out the unnecessary sensationalism.  If something triggering is announced on your television, it’s all over you before you can stop it. If you choose to read your news instead of watching or listening, you can pick and choose your sources and the articles you follow up on.

And if you do get your news online, remember almost all news agencies make a profit off of your clicks.  The headlines are as sensational as possible to get that click. Often the article itself is less interesting, or the headline might even be misleading.  Screen your sources. We encourage you to be very critical of the news, in general. If you are reading about COVID-19, we strongly encourage you to stick with information from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, or the National Institutes of Health.  Sometimes your local department of public health (usually a county-level entity) will have relevant, local updates, too.

Take Your Meds

If you have been prescribed medications, keep taking them on schedule.  I know we tell you this over and over, but it’s true. You can’t keep healthy if you don’t practice your baseline health measures.  

Stay on Schedule

Try to stay on a steady schedule.  Circadian disruption seems almost unavoidable, but it’s important to keep a healthy schedule.  If you don’t have a good schedule, adopt one for yourself today. Right now. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety and you stay awake in the dark, gaming all night and sleeping-in all day, this is assuredly going to make things worse for you as we get deeper into quarantine.  Don’t catch up on the news just before you go to bed. By the way, sleep is critical to keeping your immune system happy.  

Daylight

Also, while we are talking about daylight, get out in it.  Sitting in your backyard or on your front step still practices safe social distancing and gets you out in the light.  Do you do the meditation thing? It’s a great time to do some mindfulness exercises. Maybe even some yoga. Listen to the birds–they’re happy Spring is here.  Can you see the newly growing tree buds? Feel the grass under your feet?

Uplifting Entertainment

Consume books, movies, and music that lift you up and inspire you.  Be aware of your choices and avoid selections that might feed anger, despair, or loneliness.  We’re not going to judge you for watching Contagion back-to-back five times in five days if it was already your favorite movie.  If your jam is Childish Gambino’s “This is America” and that gets you motivated, go you! But if it makes you stabby, another choice might be better.

Got a Pet?

Continue reading “Sequestered Sanity: A How-To”

Remembering Marco Rizk

With a heavy heart, UsagiMed marks the passing of our dear brother Marco Rizk. Marco succumbed to his long battle with depression and PTSD.

Marco was a Corporal in the Georgia State Defense Force, an EMT, and an amateur radio operator.

Within UsagiMed, Marco was a fantastic medic, treating his patients with the utmost of care and empathy. He genuinely cared about people. One only needed to spend ten minutes with Marco to discover him to be among the kindest of souls–pure and giving of his love and loyalty. His smile never failed to brighten the room. Marco was our friend. And we will miss him.

Coronavirus, Conventions, and You

We’re all concerned about COVID-19.  Whether or not you’re one of the people who are buying out all the toilet paper on the eastern seaboard, we here at Usagi Medical Group would urge everyone to try to put their anxieties in check when it comes to COVID-19 and what it might do to the local convention scene.  Panic seems almost reasonable these days, but panic creates more trouble than it solves.

UsagiMed’s Advice for Convention Organizers

UsagiMed looks to our local (state and county) health departments, along with the CDC for the best and latest information on the virus, its current reach, and all the research being done to combat it.  We encourage you to do the same.  

UsagiMed cannot help you make the decision to cancel or postpone your show.  We can help inform you based on recommendations made by your local health departments, who are also in touch with the CDC and are taking their knowledge and data into account.

There are some innovations your con can make, not the least of which is making public health messaging a visible priority for your con attendees.  Emphasize the 20-second hand-washing regimen, 5-2-1 Rule, and the importance of staying hydrated.  UsagiMed does this with a series of posters, videos, and social media posts. While you’re at it, make sure water is freely available throughout the con.    

Consider implementing a policy that anyone who has any kind of illness should stay home, and that you’ll defer their membership to next year if they do.  Every year we see people show up to their con with the flu because they don’t want to waste their membership fees. Make it easier for people to stay home.  You care about your fans. You want to keep them safe. And you want to party with them when they are well.  

Continue reading “Coronavirus, Conventions, and You”

Mind Your Mind

This post is authored by By Jennifer Clark, LMSW and Mickey Desai.

In Usagi Medical Group’s ongoing series to help you maximize your con-going experience, we’ve compiled a short list of tips and resources that you may find useful if you or someone you know is suffering from some variety of mental-health issues during your con.  These issues are not always easy to identify, and may range from anxiety attacks to self-esteem problems, addictions to body-image issues, or even just good old-fashioned depression.  

A quick reminder that the UsagiMed room(s) are always available as Safe Spaces to anyone who needs them.  UsagiMed provides non-judgmental service and support and welcomes anyone who feels they need a safe, quiet place to rest at any time during the con.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed-out, isolated (yes, it happens in crowds), just need to chill out, or need someone to talk to, visit the UsagiMed people at your con.

Your con may have additional spaces: At Anime Weekend Atlanta, Safe Spaces are designated with a teal ribbon (which is the ribbon for anxiety and ptsd awareness) and the words “Safe Space” on them. Hospitality Services offers space to both crew and con goers. Accessibility Services has designated areas as well. Check with your convention to see what resources are available.

If you or someone you know is struggling, here are some quick tips and coping strategies:

  1. Get connected.  In the world of mental-health, even tiny moments of connection and understanding can have a tremendous impact for someone who might be struggling.  It is too easy to suffer silently.  It may seem preferable to isolate.  Instead, reach out to your friends–the people you trust.  There’s no harm in saying, “I’m having a hard time with this.  I think I need a minute.”
  2. Similarly, let your friends know you care.  If you should happen to see someone struggling, don’t try to fix them.  Ask them if they’re okay.  If they want to talk about it, just listen.  Don’t offer solutions.  Don’t try to diagnose.  Don’t try to fix anything.  Simply listen to your friend.  Let them know you care for them, and that you will support them in their journey towards being emotionally healthy.
  3. Remember your boundaries with other people. In your day to day life, you have developed coping skills to help you deal with other people and stressors. These don’t have to fall away simply because you are at con. Remember what your triggers and warning signs look like. Avoid the drama llamas who you know might be triggering. Don’t be afraid to share your boundaries with your con buddies, so they can help you enforce them as well.
  4. Know your healthy patterns, keep to them as much as you can at con. How much sleep do you usually need to keep your mental health on track? How much daily caffeine do you normally take? When and how much do you eat on a daily basis to keep healthy? When you’re at con, it’s too easy to deviate from “normal,” and you will crash, which brings an end to your fun. Stick to your routine as much as you are able.
  5. If you can’t stick to your regular routine, please Eat Healthy and  Take Rest.  Give your body the resources it needs to be healthy.  If you eat poorly, don’t get enough water, and run yourself into the ground, your body will find ways to make you stop and rest even if you don’t want to.  Or worse, you might become a grumpy bastard if you don’t get enough sleep and try to compensate with too much caffeine. (Trust us, nothing good comes of this.) So plan accordingly, employ the 5-2-1 rule, and treat yourself right.
  6. TAKE YOUR MEDS! Do we really need to tell you this? You know what happens when you don’t take your meds?  Bad things.  Bad things happen.  Take your freakin’ meds, already.  Sheesh.

If you need some extra help, UsagiMed will support you in finding it. Help may not be that far away. Please follow this link for a list of nationally available resources.

The quest to mental health begins with you, but remember that you are not alone in that journey.

Get Your Flu Shot!

The ‘flu vaccine is a controversial thing. We’re going to side-step the controversy by repeating the baseline truth: even if the vaccine isn’t perfect, it will AT LEAST reduce the duration and severity of symptoms if you somehow catch the influenza virus.

Get Your Flu Shot!

Last year I watched two of my relatives (both of them medical professionals) waive off the vaccine because they’d heard it wasn’t that effective. Both of them were completely laid flat with the ‘flu. For THREE weeks, neither could work. I’ll spare you the gory details. They both then rescinded and openly wished they had gotten the vaccine. Please learn from their example. Get your vaccine early.

The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, influenza vaccine that is appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. They also suggest you get vaccinated by the end of October, in preparation for ‘flu season.

UsagiMed recommends getting vaccinated at least two weeks before your favorite fall con. This gives your body plenty of time to build up antibodies and overall immunity before you risk catching any sort of con-crud.

Influenza can be deadly. Even if you’re relatively healthy, you don’t want to share the ‘flu with someone who is medically frail like a child, or a cancer patient. Please join us in spreading the word: Get your flu shot!

Radio Etiquette

This post is for all our convention-organizer friends who have to use any kind of two-way radio during their con. And you’re right, most of this seems obvious. But we’ve seen things, man! There are a lot of people who work a convention just to grab a radio and enjoy some kind of rush throughout the weekend. Many of them don’t know what they’re doing. Or they abuse the privilege. Usagi Medical Group works hand-in-glove with both convention staff and licensed first-responders who may be on scene. Proper radio etiquette helps us avoid delays and mistakes. We hope your personnel will find these guidelines useful in avoiding unnecessary frustrations in times of an emergency.

Get Prepared

Know how to use the radio. Know what the PTT (Push To Talk) button does. Know how to not trigger it by accident. Hold the button down firmly when talking, and be sure to LET IT GO when you are done. When you have the PTT button pressed, no one else can speak or be heard. You might be blocking someone on your frequency with an emergency message. You’ll drain your radio battery faster, too! Let. It. Go.

(BTW, remember to talk across the microphone, and not directly into it.)

Identify Yourself and Your Recipient

Know in advance what you are going to say. Take a moment to get collected and maybe even mentally rehearse your message. Decide who the intended recipient of the message is. Start your transmission with your name, followed by your department, and follow that with the name of the intended receiving department. “This is Holly with Main Events to UsagiMed.” There’s no point doing much more than identifying yourself and the recipient at this point. When the recipient acknowledges you, you can transmit the rest of your message.  

Short, Clear, Concise

As a general rule, if your message is longer than 20 seconds, use your phone instead. It’s best to keep your transmissions short, clear, and to the point. This gives other users an opportunity to acknowledge your message or request further clarification before you carry on with your next point.  

Be Patient

LISTEN for a response. The other person may not be able to respond immediately–be patient and give them time to reply before re-sending your call.

Acknowledging The Message

UMG first responders fill a necessary gap for conventions and event planners.

Radio users sometimes repeat a message to make it clear that they’ve heard and understood the information. For example:

Public Safety: “Jared with Public Safety to UsagiMed. Assistance required at Western Ballroom.”

UsagiMed: “This is UsagiMed confirming assistance required at Western Ballroom. We’re on our way.”

These Useful Guidelines

Please refer to these handy guidelines. (Only one page long, it’s suitable for downloading, printing, and distributing to your staff.) Remember, everyone is listening.

(It’s a handy one-pager.)

Heading to MTAC Lunar

We’re heading back to Nashville, Tennessee for the 2019 Middle Tennessee Anime Convention (MTAC)! We will be on-site providing our Walk-In Clinic and Emergency Medical Response services.  

As you’re getting ready for MTAC, remember to break in your shoes. Blisters suck. Remember the 5-2-1 Rule. (Especially the 1 part.) And remember to STAY HYDRATED. We want to see you, and we want to see you having as much fun as possible.

We’re looking forward to seeing some old friends and making new ones while we’re there. Stop by to say hi and get a cool sticker!

Oh yeah! I’m sure you don’t need the reminder to bring your meds. And if you’re sick, consider protecting others. See you soon!

Crew Bio: Theja Lanka

I started working with the group that would become UsagiMed at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2013. At the time, I had just started medical school and was looking for like-minded people in the area. I saw AWA had a medical department so I jumped on the chance to get some experience and get a behind-the-scenes look at conventions. The crew was gracious enough to accept me as one of them. They have certainly seen me grow over the years from someone who was too reserved to practicing triangle bandages to becoming more confident in my decision making.

I got into anime sometime around the middle of high school when a girl in my class was retelling Rurouni Kenshin. I was completely entranced by the story. Having only watched Indian movies up to that point, it was great to see something without a forced love story. And then I awakened my powers of time dilation and immediately consumed more anime than should have been possible.

My favorite part of UsagiMed has to be eating food together in the mornings, and after the Saturday night dance when everyone is too tired.

Crew Bio: Jazmine H.

My name is Jazmine, but you can call me Jazz like the music. I’m a licensed EMT. I serve with Usagi Medical Group. I’ve been in the medical field for six years and I’m a licensed Aerospace Medical Technician with the United States Air Force. I am also a trained Cardiac Monitor Technician with Gwinnett Medical Center, and I’m a Nursing student at Georgia State University. My favorites animes are currently My Hero Academia and Food Wars, but my all time favorites include [anything] Studio Ghibli and Yuyu Hakusho. I prefer to watch shonen and slice of life anime and I’m not much of a manga reader. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the other medical professionals in UsagiMed since 2014. My favorite part of working with UsagiMed: I get to work with super smart, super geeky people like myself, and help all the con-goers enjoy the con every year. My favorite part of Anime Weekend Atlanta is the smaller con feeling you get with a big con experience. I love cosplay watching and going to the cool events we have planned every year.