It was that kind of day, here on the other side of the Savannah river. When I came down here to assist at the first apex of the COVID-19 crisis, everything was shut down, and fear was palpable in the air. More ubiquitous than the virus itself, was an apprehension of the organism’s abilities to spread, coupled with social isolation, and exacerbated by loss of economic spine while realizing that our vaunted medical system was beginning to reveal weaknesses and flaws- and deep cracks were becoming uncomfortably noticeable.
Even in celebrated, hallowed, iconic medical institutions, inconsistencies in isolation techniques, communicability interventions, and medical PPE availability was unnerving to even myself- in medicine my entire life from Hospital Corpsman on up.
Yeah I was scared when I came down here. Scared of the unknown, and taken aback that I could even feel that way to begin with.
My first walk through of the several ICU’s at this institution i found myself walking past non-stop isolation rooms with patients on ventilators, alone in their rooms, doors closed for staff protection, but all facing the windows looking outwards. It reminded me eerily of the lobsters you see in a Lobster Tank at a restaurant or upscale grocery store, underwater, staring out through the thick glass, waiting for their turn…
I Couldn’t shake that picture.
Well I eventually did get my turn to experience that perspective- not as a patient (yet I hope), rather as an ECMO caregiver.
Indeed it was reverse isolation to put it mildly. What was most acutely obvious is how busy the staff was taking care of so many sick patients at the same time. And thus heads were always looking down at a chart, or conversing, or getting more of the so very many shift reports and updates. Every once in awhile I could get their attention to run an ABG or ACT, and that interaction was always quick. My patient meanwhile is intubated and unaware, similar to the denizens of the metaphor I shared above. It’s a horrible yet apt comparison, but I’m pretty sure after you have read this, that the image will strike a chord of humanity, empathy, and compassion for the so many that we see as numbers, but are truly members of our extended family,
My best friend Kashmir said it perfectly with a simple note on her mantle:
“In a World Where You can be Anything… BE KIND” 🙂
Pump Strong 🙂