fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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COVID in 2024

I still remember the days of peak pandemic when everyone was stocking up on masks, toilet paper and even hand sanitizer. Back then, all patients wore masks, physicians gowned up, and loved ones couldn’t see their family members in the hospital. So many things have changed, with more patients being vaccinated, visiting hours loosened, and rarely do I reach for an N95. Even if I do reach for N95s, I can throw them away after one use without worrying that the hospital will run out of supplies.

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Still Standing

Just before I attended my writers’ group meeting, I tested myself for COVID. I’d been congested and coughing, but I was negative. Even so, my husband slept in the spare bedroom that night because of my cough.

The next day, I got up as usual. In the bathroom, I noticed my forearms were tingling—not unexpected for someone like me who has MS, but the location was new and the sensation a tickle rather than the typical burning. I felt different, too, so I checked my blood pressure. It was low, even for me. I shrugged it off. Typical nurse.

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My Cupboard Is Never Bare

My house bears tangible evidence of COVID. For starters, the linen closet is equipped for monitoring, with its stack of tests, two and four to a box, plus the pulse oximeter and spare thermometer I purchased early in 2020. In the pantry, I still have disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, boxes of masks and too many disposable dishes.

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Facing the Unseen

My very first close encounters with death were in the COVID ICU. I had just completed my final year in medical school and had entered my rotatory internship. The first two months of my posting were in internal medicine, and almost all the patients were COVID patients. The very first unit I was assigned to was the COVID ICU—a place where death was a constant presence. As a doctor who had chosen this profession to save lives and help people, I found it disheartening to be surrounded by death; it contradicted all my aspirations.

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Long Grief

There used to be much to do. Reciting the Mourners’ Kaddish daily. Making phone calls, waiting on hold, filling out forms, managing the estate. Sorting and donating Dad’s personal goods. Answering panicked phone calls and texts from my mother. Explaining my status as a mourner—taking a year off from dancing at celebrations, declining blindingly joyous events that chafed against my mourning soul. Responding to friends checking in. Processing feelings. And marking all the “firsts”—first Thanksgiving, first Father’s Day, first birthday—without Dad.

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Healing from COVID’s Collective Trauma

On the first anniversary of COVID, I watched the trees remember how to hope, pushing out new buds, celadon haze on bare branches against the grey March sky. Daffodil spears of dark green shot up, their eagerness piercing the stiff brown magnolia leaves scattered on the awakening earth.  The bluebirds returned, unbidden.

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Not Me!

Three years, nine months, and thirteen days: That’s how long it had been since the shutdown, since the first time I was exposed to this mysterious, dreaded disease, which I’d never gotten. I was exposed at least three times that I know of in 2020, before we had a vaccine. And I’d never gotten it.

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That First COVID Shot

When COVID immunizations first became available in Florida, I was up three nights in a row scheduling shots for elderly members of my tiny church’s congregation. I knew they would not be able to cope with the technology to schedule their own shots online. And even if they could, none would have the patience and persistence to keep entering their data each time the portal failed.

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Better Safe than Sorry

When it came time to schedule my fourth COVID booster, I procrastinated. I’d experienced extremely negative reactions to the first two vaccines and the three previous boosters: chills, fever, aches, nausea, weakness. Dealing with those symptoms again did not appeal to me.

But then I remembered what happened to my paternal grandfather and to my beloved father—and I made the first available appointment to get the new booster.

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January More Voices: COVID Redux

Dear Pulse readers,

That’s my COVID test from a couple of weeks back. After I’d dodged the virus for three years, it finally caught up with me–disabusing me of any notion that I was somehow more robust, more careful or perhaps cleverer than everyone else who’d come down with COVID.

COVID made me feel crummy–achy, feverish and tired–and without any desire to eat.

My doctor prescribed Paxlovid, and I took it.

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