What inspires you to be a caregiver?
My father died during my first year of medical school after 23 years of battling metastatic bladder cancer. During his life, countless health care workers made sure he was there to be a father, son, husband and music teacher. Now I have the privilege of using my heart and mind to their fullest abilities to help give my patients a little more time with their family and friends, a little more time to do what gives them joy.
How has your typical workday changed? What work are you doing or doing differently because of COVID-19?
As a combined Emergency and Family Medicine resident, I work across many aspects of our health care system in normal times. This experience has really helped since the emergence of COVID-19.
In March, I was one of the first residents to work at the Virtual COVID-19 Practice. Like many of the doctors there, it was my first experience with telemedicine. The pandemic was so new at that time and many patients were very scared. Being able to see patients virtually in their own homes, address their fears and needs in the moment while the world around us was changing so quickly was a powerful experience.
In April, I was working night shifts in the ICU and caring for some of the same patients I had seen at the Virtual Practice. It was sad to think about having met them first in their homes and to see the virus now affecting them so severely. The week prior I had spent more than 45 minutes trying to convince one of the patients in the ICU to leave his home and head to the Emergency Department as he was severely dehydrated and breathing dangerously fast. Thankfully, after weeks in the ICU, he pulled through and was able to go home.
In May, I was back in the Emergency Department, frequently working in Core C where we now see most of the patients who have or may have COVID-19. At that time, most of our COVID-19 patients were coming in from local nursing homes, had not seen their families in months, and many were very sick. Long phone conversations with family members were not a frequent occurrence in the Emergency Department before the pandemic. Since, I have found myself acting as a conduit between family and patient, having those most delicate, tragic conversations that occur in the last moments of a patient’s life.
What is keeping you motivated during these uncertain times?
Modern medicine provides us with a full spectrum of therapeutic options and yet we are united across generations of doctors and nurses in our fight against the same basic human suffering. Behind each day of our work is the toil of these past generations. In front of us lies the history of our world that is yet to be written. It is an honor to have a place in that circle of life.
What advice do you have for your fellow caregivers?
Record some of the experiences, ideas for change, thoughts, observations or feelings you and your colleagues are having now. Write a letter to yourself that your future grandchildren might read. Considering the great unrest our communities are experiencing, these really are historic times. As such, we can choose to learn from them or let them slip from memory.
What advice do you have for our community?
Keep helping your neighbors. Make a new friend from six feet away. Let a few cars in to merge ahead of you. There is still a significant chance the COVID-19 pandemic will worsen and practicing kindness now when there is a little calm will help even more when we really need to fight together.