Mrs. Hernandez is a ninety-two-year-old Spanish-speaking woman, originally from Mexico, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, who arrived in the emergency department of the hospital where I’m a fourth-year medical student.
Her right arm and leg were weak, the right side of her face drooped; her speech was slurred, and she seemed confused. Her CT scans showed that a blood clot had blocked her middle cerebral artery, in the area of the brain that governs language. Mrs. Hernandez was a stroke victim.
It is day 30+ of New York City’s COVID-19 pandemic. Fire trucks and flashing lights fill the street fronting the hospital emergency department where I’m a physician. The scene erupts into applause and sirens. We doctors, nurses, physician assistants, techs, housekeepers and clerks wave back and flash our individual cardboard letters spelling “Thank You!” It is so good to be outside and, for a few minutes, unafraid. Inside, our ER break room overflows with donated pizzas and pastries. Later we will take cartloads of these up to the jam-packed ICU and medicine floors.
The virus has the world by the throat, and New York City is the epicenter. None of us has ever seen this
I am a medical student in my third year of studies. For medical students, this is the point at which, after two years of book learning, we rotate through hospital clerkships that give us our first experience of delivering hands-on care to inpatients.
Earlier in the year (it feels like many lifetimes ago), I read that COVID-19 was “just the flu.” We heard from scientific sources and popular media that other maladies were much worse, and that it would be a mistake to overreact to this one. Like many people, I accepted these assurances without too much concern. It all seemed a bit remote to me–the way I imagine issues like food stamps may seem to a politician who’s never
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.