April 2020

Best Dog in the World

Gavin Tarzan Walker is the best dog in the world. But aren’t they all?
I met Gavin in Alaska, in prison. I was working as a physician assistant in a women’s prison where inmates worked with a professional dog trainer and were paired with shelter dogs to prepare them for adoption. The dogs live 24/7 with the inmates, who provide them with training and companionship for eight weeks.

To Be (Alone) or Not To Be …

I got home this morning after my third 24-hour shift this week covering labor and delivery and newborns for our family medicine service, tired from only three to four hours of sleep. I put on my face mask in the car, came through the front door, where my husband had left a thermos of coffee, ignored the whines of our puppy who wanted to greet me, and went directly to our bedroom, where I have been self-isolating at home for six days now.

I had changed out of my scrubs at the hospital, but I now threw all my clothes straight into the wash and took an immediate shower. My husband left breakfast for me by the bedroom door. We texted our check-ins about work (from me) and the kids (from him) and about how much we miss physical contact.

Vision Quest

After finishing my third-year clinical rotations in medical school, I was feeling sleep-deprived and stressed out. The problem, I finally realized, was the ridiculous amount of pressure I’d put on myself to impress my attending physicians and get good grades.

My father is an ophthalmologist and cornea/cataract specialist. After routinely rejecting his career advice throughout my undergraduate years, I’d entered medical school–and, to my father’s delight, found myself increasingly fascinated by his field.

The Cystic Fibrosis Clinic

There were happy tears in the clinic that day. Our patient, Jane Doe, was finally approved to take the new cystic fibrosis medication. As the air went in through her nose, the stark realization set in that she had never until this point been able to take a truly deep breath.

But just when she thought her days of lung problems were behind her, a public health emergency for COVID-19 was declared.

A COVID State of Mind

I’m a fourth-year psychiatry resident in the final months of training, and I have signed on to continue as an attending physician at my hospital.

In mid-March, my team was consulted on a patient in the ICU. She was one of the first identified COVID-19 cases in Michigan, and our hospital’s first such patient.

The patient was being treated with psychotropic medications, and one of them was decreasing the effectiveness of an antiviral drug she’d been prescribed for COVID-19. Her caregivers asked us to suggest a different psychiatric drug that wouldn’t have this effect.

Like Breathing

 In the midst of this pandemic, I’ve been thinking a lot about breathing. In the yoga that I practice, breath is important. It’s a way to focus attention and connect to the spirit. It brings calm to an anxious mind.
You don’t think about breathing, you just do it. My career as a family doctor has been like that to me for over thirty years. I work at a clinic in the Bronx, and I know most of my patients well. We work together to manage their diabetes and hypertension, the personal crises in their lives and acute problems like colds and back pain. It’s hard work, but it feels good to help people and to have them know me as “Dr. B.”

To the Young Woman Who Met My Eyes Today

You don’t know me. I’m the sixty-plus woman who was behind you in line at the grocery store today. I watched as you ignored the taped lines on the floor that designated the requested six feet of distance between shoppers. I noticed as you crowded the elderly woman in front of you. You looked back at me, glanced down at my feet on the taped “X” behind you, glanced at my grey hair, and then turned to the young checker and said, “I don’t know if old people are worth saving from that virus.”

An Upside Down World

Life turned upside down in a matter of days. On March 13, the governor closed schools. My husband and I met friends for dinner that night. We were nervous and opened the restaurant’s door with a Lysol wipe and carried hand sanitizer inside. On March 16, restaurants and gyms shut down. It was my son’s 15th birthday and he almost cried when I didn’t let him go to a friend’s house. We’d promised him dinner at a steakhouse. Instead, we got takeout, and he was too sad to eat cake.


My mom is ninety-six years old. She lives in a wonderful assisted living facility, and is mostly blind and incontinent. She has lost most of her motor skills, uses a wheelchair and suffers from dementia.

Mom was once as sharp as a tack and a force to be reckoned with. Despite her dementia, she is still that. Each day in my heart, I bow down to the wonderful aides who treat her with infinite patience, humor and gentle kindness.

Two nights ago I received an email telling all residents and families that four residents had tested positive for COVID-19.

Saying Goodbye through the Loving Hands of a Nurse

Because of COVID-19, the rec center in Dad’s retirement community was closed. Determined to continue exercising, my vigorous 89-year-old father went for a walk. We don’t know what happened, but passers-by found him on the ground. Paramedics were called; flat-line ECG. He was resuscitated and placed on a ventilator. Unfortunately, his brain appeared damaged.

Despite the emerging pandemic, my sister and I traveled to Arizona. We sat by his side and held his hand.

Then, the rules changed: No visitors allowed.

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