On Living in the Moment

When Omicron hit, we were planning my father’s eighty-fifth birthday celebration. We were vaccinated and boosted, so it wasn’t Dad we were worried about. It was my brother Jeff who needed extra consideration.

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It started with a raging sore throat in the middle of the night. I rarely wake once I fall asleep, but on that particular night, I opened my eyes at 1:00 a.m. and it hurt badly to swallow my own saliva. I rolled over, took a dose of ibuprofen with water, and returned to sleep.

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“He pulled his Dobhoff again.”

The pager’s words echo on my retina as I indulge in a prolonged, beleaguered sigh. These are the five-minutes-til-sign-out pages that are going to push me to start Amlodipine (a blood pressure medicine) before I’m thirty.

He’s ninety-six years old. He doesn’t remember his name, where he is or what year it is. He has no proxy or next of kin. He’s not talking.

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A Christmas Gift

Two years. Fully masked with my eye shield every single day with no issues. COVID patients, non-COVID patients. Bring them on! I wore my PPEs, practiced social distancing, wore masks, avoided crowds, shopped during off hours. The whole nine yards and never caught COVID.

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A Day in Respiratory Clinic: Omicron Version

We start with only two pre-booked patients, a mom and her six-month-old baby, but by forty-five minutes into the morning, the schedule is full. I take my own COVID test (negative) and joke with the medical assistants about how they resemble pregnancy tests. Already wearing scrubs and N95 mask, I suit up with face shield, disposable gown, stethoscope and gloves. I breathe.  

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Ten Little Soldier Boys

“Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks; one chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

“Six little soldier boys playing with a hive; a bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

“Five little soldier boys going in for law; one got in chancery and then there were four.

“Four little soldier boys going out to sea; a red herring swallowed one and then there were three.”

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Adapting to Uncertainty

I retired at age 89 from a primary-care internal medicine practice of nearly six decades. Medicine as service has permeated my bones, my mind, my spirit. How can I still contribute, without a medical license, without a prescription pad? Especially in the age of omicron, with uncertainty abounding everywhere?

Perhaps examining the reality of uncertainty, and how my fellow clinicians and I learned to adapt to it, will be of some value.

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Dodging the Virus

Although I wasn’t the last kid picked for teams in gym class, captains never clamored for me, either. That was sensible, given my nominal athletic skills. In softball or kickball, my defensive strategy consisted of trying to psychically deflect incoming balls from my sector of the outfield, desperate to avoid letting down my team with an embarrassing miss or fumble.

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Déjà vu all over again

The news is full of reports about the havoc omicron is wreaking on our health-care system. But last week I was on vacation, and as I sipped my daily latte and strolled on the beach, COVID-19 seemed like a distant memory. As soon as I checked my work email after getting back, however, my vacation bliss shattered—boom!

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What’s Really a Bummer

I canceled going to Canada to ski this month. Yes, I’m worried about the infectiousness of omicron and the need for constant risk-assessment once again. But what’s worse are the emotions swirling in my head as I think about certain friends and family members.

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Children at Risk in Brazil

My country—Brazil—leads the world in the worst COVID consequences. That fact is so outrageous I feel uncomfortable using the verb “lead,” as it’s usually associated with positivity. But Brazil holds global records in infection and death from SARS-CoV-2, including maternal deaths and child and adolescent deaths. “COVID killed a child aged 5 to 11 every two days in Brazil” stated a recent news article based on epidemiological data. A parliamentary investigation found evidence that hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been avoided if not for decisions by politicians.

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Christmas Eve

As a physician and a musician, the past twenty-two months have been filled with personal suffering and sacrifice. My pediatric practice has been severely affected, as I practice in New Rochelle, the former epicenter of the pandemic back in March, 2020. As a horn player, my musical practice has also suffered, as most concerts have been on hiatus during the pandemic.
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