Sunday, March 15, 2020

Stay Home

I know that I am mortal.

Anyone who goes through medical training, if they pay any attention whatsoever, is forced to confront this fact.  For me, there is one particular moment from my residency training that brought this home to me.  A woman very close to my age had come into the hospital feeling unwell, and a series of CT scans had shown that she was dying.  The scan report described numbers and dimensions of multiple tumours, and at the end the Radiologist had left a horrifying impression statement:  "Riddled with cancer".  I was the one left to deliver the news to her, and as I read the scan report and thought about what I was going to say, her two children ran past the computer I was working on, laughing as they turned the hospital ward into an impromptu field for tag.

I know that I am mortal, and yet, I don't really KNOW that I am mortal.

A week ago, I was watching the New York Times Coronavirus map, as the outbreak spread closer and closer to the United Kingdom, worried that my conference in April would be cancelled.

Then I accepted that my conference would be cancelled, and worried that if I went to the UK for vacation, I would be quarantined on my return.

Then I worried about going to the States.

Then about going to the Rockies.

It was only about Thursday, as I watched the numbers go up and previously yellow countries turn to red on the map, that the seriousness of this started to hit me.

My first real worry was that I would be called on to provide inpatient care.  I've worked almost entirely outpatient care for the past seven years, and I've never worked inpatient care except under direct supervision, so the idea of managing a heart attack or having to put a breathing tube into someone in respiratory failure fills me with terror.  I will do my best to step up and do whatever I am called upon to do, but I certainly do not want to.

And then, in the last 24 hours, as I've had a quiet day of social distancing at home with the cats, I've had time to reflect on what this really means.  I'm just as vulnerable to this infection as anyone else.  Probably even more, given that I will still be going into the hospital and seeing patients, albeit in a very limited capacity for the foreseeable future.  And my friends.


One of my good friends is a paramedic.

The mother of my godson is an ER doc.

Another good friend is an anaesthesiologist.

Another friend a surgeon.

Many others family physicians.

Many, many others internist who have taught me and with whom I trained.

And fucking idiots are going to the bars for St. Patrick's Day.  Getting their nails done.  Taking advantage of discounted fares to go on holidays.  I understand the denial, because I was there a week ago.  But I am filled with fear at the thought that the people I love, my community, are vulnerable because other people don't want to have their freedom restricted in any way.

I keep saying the same thing over and over again:  Please, for the love of everything, stay home.


  1. Flattening the curve is the best we can do to not overtax the medical systems. I would be bad if triage has to make life and death decisions. Yes, stay at home, self-quarantine, do whatever you can to minimize the risk to others. Living in a rural area sometimes makes one complacent, but this is not a good time for that. School is closing as is the Y which will help to keep things contained if the virus finds us.
    Use your meditation to help alleviate the fear.

  2. We have so many friends and relatives who are on the front lines of this thing. I am worried for them and more than happy to stay my ass home to do my part in preventing any unnecessary spread because that is literally the easiest and least we can do to fight this thing. It may not be fun for all, and I have a young child to mind while working at the same time, but it's certainly easier than being exposed to the virus daily without adequate protection. Stay safe.

  3. Yeah. I'm fucking terrified. A month ago I was wondering if we'd get any positive cases, and today I'm dreading any updates from the hospital about our favorite trauma surgeon who is currently intubated and proned.

    I've prepared as much as possible at home, with food and water and generators and other survival stuff, but I am not emotionally prepared at all to lose people I care about. And tomorrow starts a 5 out of 6 day stretch at the ER.

    I hope you stay safe. I hope you stay well. Know that I see you, and appreciate all that you do.

  4. I've had the same worry. Even though I'm no longer a practicing medic, a large part of my community are health care professionals. It sucks that whilst they're risking their lives, others are out and about taking theirs for granted.

  5. I totally agree with your post. How are you faring these days? I hope you're ok.

  6. Have been thinking about you and your blog, and hoping you are healthy and managing ok these days. Your writing is missed! But also totally understand you may have more pressing things on your plate these days.

  7. Just checking in on you. You doing okay?

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