My colleagues are amazing and inspiring.
I just needed to mention that right off the bat.
The dedication, focus, willing to offer support anywhere it was needed, the family atmosphere of last night, while taking care of many sick COVID-19 patients, was incredible. We really are in this together.
Shout out to my homies.
I know this post is going up late, but after an exhausting overnight shift in the ICU, I needed to take care of myself first. And I did that by sleeping for many, many hours, working out, texting and calling my loved ones, and then by decompressing at home and reflecting about my previous night. Because it is not the physical exhaustion that's the worst. It is the nonstop mental exhaustion.
Because I don't have the luxury to not think about COVID-19 anymore. The same goes for all of my colleagues. Not when many of us are in the middle of taking care of the sickest patients in the hospital.
I have NO idea if I contracted COVID-19 last night irrespective of taking all precautions. I may not have. Or maybe I'm now an asymptomatic carrier. Or maybe I'll just get a slight cough, fever, and some muscle aches and that'll be that. Or maybe in a week I'll start suffering from some mild shortness of breath, thinking maybe it's just allergies triggering my asthma. Or maybe it'll become severe. Or maybe... I don't want to keep going down this path. And the shittiest part of this whole thing?
Every. Single. Time. I. Work. These. Same. Thoughts. Run. Through. My. Head.
I got to dump my likely COVID-19 infested scrubs at work, but then had to don my regular clothes and coat that could then also be contaminated. I had to sanitize my badge, phone, phone charger, amongst many other things before leaving.
I rode the subway home since I do not have a car and live miles from my hospital. I was constantly conscious of what I was touching to minimize risk of spreading potential virus to anyone else. Or contracting it myself instead.
I got home, left my work bag and coat near my front door, stripped, and immediately took a shower, again being conscious of what I touched.
My 20 year old cousin, who is a student at Columbia, lives with me. He may be low-risk, but any risk I could make him sick is unacceptable.
On my way to work yesterday, I called both my mom and sister after I found out they were not taking as strict of measures as they should be to protect themselves. Both live in Michigan, where the cases are rapidly increasing by the day. I was so upset. I couldn't help it.
My mom and sister are the two most important people to me in this world. My heart is connected to those two. If anything happened to either of them, I do not know what I would do, and my own personal well-being is intertwined with theirs.
I feel similarly regarding my own friends, extended family, and colleagues. And the reality is, these considerations are the reality of all healthcare workers.
I want to share with you some examples that are very personal to me.
My Mummy is 65, has mild blood pressure and diabetes, but takes her meds and is otherwise healthy. But she is still high-risk.
My sister is 34, though she looks like she is 16 (literally). But she has severe ulcerative colitis and has to be on monthly infusions of Remicade, an immunosuppressant required to keep her immune system in check so she doesn't bleed. She is high-risk.
I have a close friend and anesthesia colleague in the city, who is considered AMA and pregnant for the first time in her 2nd trimester. She wants to help but is scared, even though she knows the preliminary data regarding risk of preterm labor is questionable at best. She feels guilty but it's understandable. She just wants to protect her unborn child.
I have an older colleague who is high-risk but still has made the CHOICE to assist with airways, invasive access, and ventilator management on the sickest patients in the hospital. He is an inspiration. But we fear for his health, too.
I have a senior resident who is one of the cockiest residents I've ever worked with. But he backs it up with his intelligence, extremely strong work ethic, and sense of right and wrong. He was infected with COVID-19 and had to go home to his girlfriend who suffers from Crohn's disease and takes Remicade like my sister. She could not go home because her hometown is where a major COVID-19 outbreak occurred. Unfortunately, she became infected, and he was so stressed until she got better.
But within 72 hours of his fever resolving, he was back at work taking care of the sickest patients once again BY CHOICE.
I have a senior resident whose wife is also a physician, and they practice social distancing EVEN AT HOME. He said he hadn't kissed his wife in over 2 weeks. And his reason for that?
"If I got my wife sick and something happened to her, I would kill myself."
I have a friend who is a physician, is married, and has a beautiful family. But none of that mattered when she lost her father recently to COVID-19.
And then there is me.
I am 38 and on the surface look healthy. But I have mild asthma. I have mild ulcerative colitis but fortunately do not need to be on immunosuppressants. I had an arrhythmia that caused my heart rate to spike as high as 190 beats per minute and had a cardiac ablation only a month ago to treat it.
I am overall still pretty healthy, but there are people like me in the ICU, too. "Pretty" just doesn't cut it.
But I can't shake my core belief that what I do is important, it matters, and I can make a difference in this world.
I think about everyone else, but many times I forget to think about myself. There are times I think I'm invincible, that I won't get sick, where I get so focused on doing what is best for my patients.
But fortunately, I have many family members, friends, and colleagues who know how dumb I can be at times. And they implore me to take care of myself. And I listened, just like I did earlier today.
I love them. They've got my back. Just as I've got theirs.
Shout out to my homies. Once again.