Coronavirus: I think it's here...
Seeing what's going on with my family and friends in New York makes me sad but more importantly, makes me want to be home and be there for MY New York. Unfortunately, I'm stationed on the other coast, out west in sunny California. Only it's no longer sunny... As this virus tears its way throughout the world we are preparing on the West Coast for the harm it's already starting to cause. Seeing what it is doing to my home city is not making it feel any better for what it might do to my new home.
If you haven't figured it out yet, we are at WAR. Although, I never signed up for this war, none of us did actually, we should all know that we are all in this together and we will get through this (CLICHÉ, I know). As with any war, we will lose people but we are resilient and we will work hard to fight this. Being on the frontlines, does not make me feel like a hero but it does make me feel like we have to do everything we can to survive and to protect as many people around us so that they can do the same. It is a tough position to be in because many of us never expected to be in this situation, at least at this time and without warning. Wars don't tell you when they are coming they just do and we have to take whatever we can get to be best equipped.
As a resident in the ICU, which is usually the busiest place to be in, it initially became awfully quiet as if this was the beginning of the end or the calm before the storm. Slowly but surely patients have started to trickle in. Some presented in severe respiratory distress and needed to be placed on a ventilator while others were awaiting impending doom. We are now starting to get test results for these patients and are beginning to feel the wrath of this, Coronavirus.
It is very much here and it is about to break loose. Our hospital is preparing for the worst but who knows if we will overshoot or undershoot as long as we can make it out whole that's all that matters. We still don't know which medications are 100% effective or if our protective equipment is actually doing anything. So many unanswered questions as well as, limitations. Because although these masks are coming they aren't here yet and even though my patient is not yet symptomatic does not mean that tomorrow they won't be vented like the rest. So while I stroll through the hospital with my surgical mask I think, is this even protecting me? Will an N95 that I have to reuse multiple times offer more protection? How about the hazmat suit and respirator that I don't have? Are we doing the appropriate things when running codes and ventilating these patients? We will soon find out but until then we weather the storm and we ride the wave (depending on the phrase you prefer).
This is why we ask all of you to STAY at home for those of us who have to go in (and I'm not just referring to the healthcare workers here, we acknowledge everyone during this time). This is also why we stress the importance of hand hygiene and why we are appalled that some people in some places still don't take this entire situation seriously. If you won't do it for us at least do it for yourself. We're not asking for too much. All we want is for everyone to get better so if everyone chooses today to start listening and taking action for what is right then we will all be that much closer to restarting our normal lives again.
If this post hasn't alluded you to the fact that I'm scared then you weren't reading it in the first place. But maybe you can find some solace or not... that we ALL are scared and we are all learning as we go. I hope that we won't be in as severe of a shape as my colleagues are on the East Coast but I'll let you know about that later.
As we sit around our rounding rooms talking in order to take the edge off, there is a different feeling in the air these days. The confidence slowly trickles away, the coffee starts to get stronger, the environment a little more serious and the days are rightfully so, getting longer. As we wait for Corona to do its thing we start getting slammed with rapid responses and code blues. The loudspeaker has started to go off more than usual and although not all the patient's results are back we know that the virus is very much within these walls and only WE can contain it. We can only hope that we stop it soon but in the meantime we say, "Hello Coronavirus, we're here to end you." And just like that, my war begins.
- Dr. Samantha Gelman