The death toll continues to rise in NY State and across the US. Today, COVID-19 became the leading cause of death in the US, where it kills more people on a daily basis than heart disease or cancer.
Though hospitalizations are slowing in NY, the death toll continues to rise. And this is likely due to the fact the numerous people who have been hospitalized, especially those on ventilators, are much more likely to die in the ICU than to be discharged home. So we still have a ways to go before this is over.
But it is encouraging to see the case growth rate and hospitalizations across the country slowing down, as well as the projected death rate. And we need to continue practicing social distancing measures for these trends to continue. We are getting over the hump and cannot stop now.
We endure the struggles involved in quarantining and social distancing to ensure the health of ourselves, loved ones, and society for the future. But this motivation to push forward towards a desired outcome regardless of the struggle is not just true because we are in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. This is true in life in general.
And my childhood friend Ashish can attest to that.
He is the reason I decided on a career in anesthesiology in the first place. Before this whole crisis started, I think there was very little appreciation in general for what we actually do as anesthesiologists. We do MUCH more than just "put people to sleep". The thing is though, I used to think the EXACT SAME THING as a medical student.
I never thought about anesthesiology as a specialty even once through my first 3 years of medical school. I started medical school believing I was going to be a pediatrician. But my interest in pediatrics was dashed by the fact I did not enjoy clinic at all, nor the fact I had little control over a patient's health since that was dependent on them following through with a treatment plan. I enjoyed surgery because I liked being hands-on, but then after hearing from many residents I should only do surgery if I knew it is the only thing that would make me happy, that immediately gave me pause.
My roommate and best friend in medical school Jaffer was going to be an anesthesiologist, but I thought he was just lazy and looking to chase money (I was not that far off though, right Jaffer? 😘).
So going into my last year of medical school, I was in a bit of a panic because I had NO idea what I wanted to specialize in. So thank goodness for Ashish.
I never took anesthesiology seriously until Ashish told me I should do a rotation. He was finishing his second year as an anesthesia resident at Michigan when I was a 4th year medical student. We had known each other since we were kids, so when he insisted I do a rotation because he was convinced I would enjoy it, I acquiesced. I had no other direction so, why not?
And the rest is history.
We spoke on the phone today because he was seeking any insight and advice I may have to help prepare his anesthesia group in Indiana for the surge in COVID-19 cases they were expecting, in particular our experiences utilizing anesthesia machines as ventilators for these patients and how else the anesthesia team was being utilized within our hospitals. It has been humbling to be utilized as a resource for friends across the country during this time.
But our conversation eventually veered away from shop talk, and to talking about life in general. When I asked him how he was doing, he answered, "well, I'm surrounded by my daughters so I'm living the dream." This was a phrase he repeated multiple times during our conversation. We spoke about his career successes and climbing up the leadership ladder, and the struggles he has endured to get to where he is. But it became abundantly clear from our conversation that his desire for success had nothing to do with money or prestige; he even admitted he could be making more money elsewhere if that was what he cared about.
His desires stemmed from his singular motivation to provide the best life he possibly could for his family, and specifically, his daughters.
He loves being a father, it is his singular greatest joy. He asked me when I have kids, don't you want to be able to provide them a better life than what your parents provided for you? And I said, of course. And he said well, that's going to be pretty hard for my daughters to do the same when they have kids, which I thought was an awesome statement.
My conversation with him really impacted me though because his words and thoughts immediately reminded me of someone really special to me:
My own father.
My father passed away nearly 6.5 years ago. But the words Ashish continually repeated were almost the exact same words I heard my father tell me continually throughout my childhood. Words that depicted a very singular, pure love for his children.
And just like Ashish's daughters, my siblings and I were my dad's world.
In my other posts, I spoke about the realizations I have made and lessons I have learned throughout this pandemic. But today that is not the case. The impetus for the call with Ashish may have been COVID-19, but the purpose behind this post was to speak about my friend.
Because I just wanted to thank him for giving me a moment where I felt I was listening to Daddy talk once again.