Are you tired of sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic? Disgruntled with the same 4 walls and familiar faces that mark your experience with COVID-19? An emergency physician wants you to know exactly why he's glad you're staying at home.
Physicians excel at many things, one of them being keeping our emotions to ourselves. We keep them bottled up so as to not cloud our judgment or make rash decisions, so we can continue to put our patients first and keep them healthy and safe. Often that bottle overflows when we get home, or as quickly as when we go to get into our cars or walk out of the hospital doors. Whenever we actually get a minute to decompress, to feel – really feel – the weight of what we have endured at work.
These are a few things I've thought over the past weeks of being in the ED and in the ICU, which has felt as close to a war zone I think I have ever been or will want to be.
I am glad you are at home, seeing your loved ones, FaceTiming them, enjoying the solitude that is your happy and safe home instead of seeing the faces of strangers over a 6x3 iPhone screen while they watch their loved ones die.
I am glad you are at home, listening to music, hearing the voices of those you love, instead of the deafening sounds of ventilator alarms that cannot be silenced and indescribable sounds and screaming of the family members you are trying to comfort via a patchy Internet connection.
I am glad you are at home, hugging those you love and that your only source of human touch is not your hands on someone's chest, doing chest compressions trying to fix something you know cannot be fixed. Or holding your patient's hand as they take their last breath and drift away from this life. Or hugging your co-resident since they are the only other person who will come near – because you, as a physician, feel radioactive and untouchable.
I am glad you are at home, reading books, learning a language, doing puzzles, challenging yourself instead of the challenge of thinking that your 11 years of medical training have failed you because yet another patient has died despite you doing everything you could have imagined and then some, with the same result: death.
I am glad you are at home, safe and healthy and not afraid to walk into another room in your apartment or house - instead of thinking every room you walk into could possibly be the one that gets you sick and maybe kills you.
The feelings I have experienced throughout this pandemic have been incommunicable and will continue to be. I am scared. I am scared for myself, my colleagues, my family and friends, everyone. I am scared of what will happen after this is over. I am scared that people will be afraid of human touch and human interaction. I am scared this world that we live in will be different – and not in a good way.
I only share this with you to implore you to please stay home. If not for yourself, for everyone else, because I can assure you that you do not want to be on the other end of an iPad watching your loved one die alone or to die alone yourself. That is morbid, but it is happening every single day, and it's taking not only human life but also little bits and pieces of the people who care for these patients so deeply, day in and day out. It's a heaviness I am unsure will ever go away.
Be grateful for what you have and realize there is a suffering that people endure every day that we are oh so glad you never have to. Stay safe and please stay home.