Editor's Forum

Time for Gratitude

Hello EMRA Family, 

I will be honest; the past few months have been difficult, as I am sure it has been for a lot of you as well. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions riddled with guilt, fear, and frustration, often leaving me feeling emotionally exhausted and physically unmotivated. 

COVID-19, the novel virus that forever changed the landscape of medicine and society. Globally and nationally, it brought out and highlighted our gross shortcomings as a medical institution. 

It has stripped us of some of life's most joyous moments: weddings, graduation, concerts, baby showers. 

It has taken lives. Countless of colleagues/family members/friends have succumbed to this virus, sometimes at the peak of their lives. 

It has robbed us of humanity. We've had to tell patients' family members, while they are crying in front of us, that they will not be able to visit their loved ones in the hospital once admitted. And we've had to see our patients die in an empty room.

This has created an incredible mental and spiritual strain on all of us. This is a trauma we will be dealing with for the rest of our lives. 

But let's not let this virus take anything more from us. 

Let's not let it take our ability to connect emotionally, even if it's through our phones and laptops. Let's not let it take our ability to open up and be vulnerable to others as we share our valleys and peaks. Let's let it serve as a reminder to prioritize ourselves and the people we care about most. Friends, our careers are important, but the connections we create in this world with our fellow humans are what makes life meaningful. 

"When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping' " - this quote by Mr. Rogers rings truer than ever today. During the pandemic, even while witnessing so many horrid things, I have also been blessed to see so many helpers.

I have been inspired by medical students who have used social media to gather PPEs to donate. Encouraged by everyday folks pooling their resources to provide for a struggling neighbor. Astonished by the physician mothers and fathers living outside their homes, isolating themselves from their family and children, while they proudly continue their mission of care and service to others. 

I have also formed more profound connections with friends and colleagues who have only existed in a superficial realm until now. We have had more time to open up and speak vulnerably and honestly, and connections have been forged and strengthened by relating to collective trauma. One of my favorite questions that prompted many of these connections/conversations has been: What's one positive you have learned from this time?

This has led to some of the most authentic answers. I witnessed melancholy colleagues light up when answering. This question truly makes us re-frame the situation at hand. 

I implore you all to ask this question AND share authentically yourself. I will help start the conversation:

I contracted COVID-19 in March. What I thought was just nasal congestion turned into dyspnea on exertion, extreme exhaustion, and unrelenting body aches. Pre-coronavirus, I was a very active person - mentally and physically. I worked out several times a week, read most days out of the week, and felt motivated to continuously progress upward in my career. The STOP the virus placed on my body and life was jarring. A week and a half flew by while I mostly moved between my bed and chair. I felt unmotivated and discouraged. I felt guilty about missing my shifts while I recovered. I felt saddened, by proxy, when I spoke to my parents on video chat, who had to stay away from their sick daughter. I felt let-down that I was getting behind on my residency and EMRA tasks. 

Now, close to 2 months post-recovery, I am THANKFUL. 

I am thankful for that 'down-time': time to stop and focus on just myself helped me re-prioritize my life. I have used this time to reach out to friends from college and medical school that I have not spoken to in a few months. I used the lack of distractions to reconnect with my husband and friends and helped strengthen friendships and relationships. 

I am filled with newfound gratitude when I go for a run on a warm day, and I can breathe in the air deeply without the dyspnea I had felt for weeks. Speaking with family members on video chat has taken on a new sense of joy as I am lucky enough to be present at this moment to be able to do it. 

To my #EMRAFamily, times are tough. 

But don't let this virus take away anything more than it already has. Take the time to talk to our colleagues, friends, family. Do not repress your thoughts. Journal and self-reflect authentically. It's ok not to be ok. Reach out when you need to. We are all in this together. 

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