We leave to go to war every morning knowing our risks. I did not sign up to be a soldier, yet here I am. My job is to heal and I took an oath. In Fabruary, I purchased three new pairs of scrubs and a new pair of clogs, because there was no more mixing of street and hospital clothes.
MK and I went over our contingency plans over wine in mid March; then more contingency plans over tears (mine). We went over with the then 12 year-old Plumster (she is 13 now!) on how to take care of herself: how to do laundry; how to disinfect the kitchen; how to leave food at the quarantined door and quickly leave. I don’t know how not to be scared, but I need to push on.
With the #stayhome order we are avoiding a surge, thus allowing scientists and doctors to figure out how to combat this pandemic. There are new solutions, new problems, new insights, new possibilities, new symptoms (CDC just added a few more!), hitting at us every day. I have FB on all day now because it seems to be the fastest, most centralized place to get the most up-to-date information from all the national physician news groups.
On a much less horrific scale compared to the frontline healthcare workers in Brooklyn, every day really does feel like Groundhog Day. I walk into my office, decontaminate my entire workstation with bleach wipes( keyboards, phone, chair, faucets), then I wipe down all the doorknobs around my office, up and down the hallway, including the staff bathrooms.
I try to use telemedicine inside my office as much as I can. If I really need to see an inpatient face-to-face, I need to be mindful of the different levels of possible viral load: the elevator, the floors, the emergency room, the ICU. Keeping track of my fingers and where they land: all the buttons I have to press, all the keyboards I need to click, all the doors I have to open. Hand sanitizers, hand washing, hundreds of times a day. My fingers cracked; my ears raw; my nose dented.
I try to remember every conversation I have with my patients so that I get all my work done at my own desk, the one I bleach-wipe at least twice a day. I try not to breathe too deeply all day. I try not to let the fogged eye shield, nor my pinched nose, nor my squished ears bother me.
When I go home, I change out of my shoes inside my car. My family is used to not coming near me when I get home, though I do have to yell at my dogs for licking me. I strip and rush to the shower as soon as I get home to decontaminate myself and hot wash everything my body touches. I feel like a robot sometimes. Actually, scratch that, I feel like a robot most of the time. Do not feel, just proceed. Do not introspect. Do not fear.
And I do all of this from a relatively clean environment. I can’t fathom what will happen if our hospitals are packed with COVID-19 patients, filled to the brim with horrors and sorrows. I check up on my mom daily who lives alone in NYC. There is no cure and no vaccine for COVID-19, so all we can do is to flatten the curve to give healthcare providers and scientists more time to come up with ways to fight and to protect.
With states lifting their social distance orders, I am stricken with worries about what awaits us in the near future. I fervently pray that the COVID-19 epicenter scenario will not repeat elsewhere. Please do your part in reminding your community how important it is to keep our neighborhood safe. Please wear masks, wash your hands, and be safe. Spread love, not germs.