Answering the Call

When the pandemic first arrived in the U.S., I felt a familiar pull. Public health emergency? Epidemiology? I’d worked for decades as an infectious diseases doctor. This was right up my alley: Sign me up!

 

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Paying My Debt to Ireland

After completing my master’s at the University of Toronto in 2019, I decided to travel to Ireland, as it’s my second home and has made me what I am today–a pediatrician. Shortly after my arrival, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The Medical Council of Ireland contacted all registered doctors in the country and asked us to join the fight during the crisis. The hashtag “#oncallforireland” began to trend on social media. It was the time to pay back my debt to Ireland. I answered the call and joined Children’s Health Ireland as a pediatrician.
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Being Human

I work as an ambulance paramedic. Nowadays, on every call that meets the criteria for COVID-19, my colleagues and I wear masks, gloves, eye shields and gowns. We stand six feet away from our patients as we interrogate them about the presence of fever, cough, body aches, or breathing problems. 

Our overall 9-1-1 volume is down, as people stay home instead of driving drunk, as they decide to stay away from hospitals, as most of them (minus the over-advertised outliers) shelter in place. But I notice more secondary symptoms: domestic abuse, assault, anxiety, mental illness, loss of sobriety.

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Racked with Guilt

“Don’t you even think of going out in this,” my former colleagues warn me. They’re on the front lines, truly seeing the effects of COVID. I retired from my medical practice five years ago when I developed some serious illnesses.
For people like me, this new coronavirus presents a unique threat. I’m used to protecting myself from infection. But this one is different. If I get COVID-19, there’s a high likelihood that I’d die.
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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.
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Heroes Are Humans, Too

“Honestly, Keerthi, I wish I wasn’t a physician right now. I feel terrible for saying it, but I wish I could isolate with you,” my mother, a sixty-year old physician, admitted to me late one night as she slightly sobbed into her blanket. As a daughter, I rarely see my parents cry. The last time was when my grandfather passed away twelve years ago.

It had been four weeks since the first COVID-19 patient had arrived at our community hospital, and my mother was exhausted. It had also been three days since I’d seen her in-person, as she

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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

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Wartime Efforts

I’m a rising fourth-year medical student and currently in limbo. Clinical rotations have suspended until further notice. But I want to help, even if only in small ways.
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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.

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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

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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.”
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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.

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