I came up with the idea to give voice to physicians who wanted to tell their stories in COVID. I present some of these stories.
For the past years COVID has been happening around the world. I am a Mexican writer and an anthropologist. I made up my mind to research the phenomenon. I came up with the idea to give voice to physicians who wanted to tell their stories in COVID areas but did not have the time to write it themselves, or were not keen on writing. I present some of these stories. Little by little I will continue presenting their impressions. I have lent my voice, but the experience there is theirs. I think we will be impressed as readers to recognize similarities with these expert health personnel and our own lives.
May 4th, 2020.
I am not first line, I am not in contact with COVID patients. That’s for intensivist, internist and pneumologist doctors. Just a couple of weeks ago I got my own place for seeing patients. But I was told to cancel all the appointments due to this health crisis. So my days have been very peaceful. I need to be at the hospital at 7:30, grab a coffee, take some classes online, webinars, chat with peers, loads of us do not have patients right now, so we talk and have breakfast together. Most of us are worried about the situation but calm because we are not required to do something, most of us do not even know what we would do. I work in the Rehabilitation area of the hospital, so we have a totally different approach to patients and their diseases.
Going back to my chill days, I leave the hospital at 14:30 and go home. I cook something to eat, watch Netflix, read some news, and suddenly it is already time to sleep. So I sleep. It is a very cyclic life. All my days seem like the same day being on a loop. If it were not for COVID I would drive to Hermosillo for my private practice. There are a lot of patients that actually need an appointment with me, but no one wants to get out due to the pandemic. COVID ruined loads of things, including private practices and regular appointments. Seems like the hospital is waiting and waiting. Most of the health personnel are on stand-by, only nurses, intensivist, internist and pneumologist are working relentlessly.
May 7th, 2020.
I have been learning about COVID treatment, although everything is experimental now. I have been reading and trying to refresh my memory on parts of the body that I have not inspected in a long time. I have been relearning about assisted breathing techniques, PPE (personal protective equipment), etc. But in theory I would only need to see patients with this new disease if it is really necessary. Why would an audiologist treat a lung affliction? Surely there is someone more apt to do it.
May 12th, 2020.
Last Friday my colleague, the other audiologist of the hospital, was told she is going in COVID area soon. She entered yesterday for the first time. I am very anxious, I know I will be required to get in soon. I have been reading and rereading. Manuals, articles, classes, courses around this new disease. But the information we have right now is very general and the information available in Mexico is simplified. Yeah, we all know COVID affects the lungs and that is caused by a virus… The thing is, we do not know how to cure it.
I have tried to refresh my memory but it has been a long time since I was a general practitioner and now I know about my area, not so much about infections, viruses and multiple organ failure… We do not know how the virus will react in each body, in some patients with comorbidities it is gentle, in others it is aggressive. We were told that only old or sick people die, but it is not true. We have been receiving patients of all ages.
These last weeks seem so quick and chaotic that I must be having a nightmare. Aren’t pandemics something of the last century? Isn’t scientific knowledge so advanced that we could face this with one hand in our pockets?
May 23rd, 2020.
Today I was called to the COVID area. We have opened two more floors for COVID treatments. Things are going down very quickly. I needed to go to room E35. I could not see sh*t with my goggles. They got foggy. My hands were sweating. We were five in total, all of us from different specialisations, none related to lungs, viruses, ICU… We walked in with an intensivist physician. I thought he was going to be the leader of the team and tell each one of us what to do. But he just told us to go and check on the patients. Thanks! I had no idea what to do. First of all it was impressive to see what was happening there. Patients in rows and rows of beds. Most of the unconscious. The sound of the respirators. The coughs of the ones that were awake and trying to breathe by themselves. The tension of everyone inside. Everyone walked in giant white protective suits that made me feel even more alone and nervous.
Patients were isolated from their families, and I thought that most of them would not get reunited. I felt a punch in my stomach. I was one of the people in charge, but I had no idea what to do. All the things I had been reading and learning were erased from my brain. I was anxious, I felt I couldn’t breath. I thought I was already sick. I looked around. I had no idea who was who. The health personnel, physicians and nurses, and the cleaning personnel were all in the same suits. I tried to recall any knowledge of medicine, where was it? I felt like I couldn’t breathe again. I was having a panic attack. Great! I thought. I couldn't see much because of the foggy goggles. But I looked around again. My mind told me I was probably already sick because this was the first time I put the protective suit on and it was likely I had missed some important step. I had been contaminated. It was too much. I don’t know for how long I stood there.
A nurse noticed my uneasiness. She approached me and guided me from bed to bed. She told me to check on vital signs, to ask a couple of questions to the conscious ones, and to say some words to motivate them. I wrote some lines on how they were for the expedients. Little by little I started to feel that I was able to breathe. I still couldn’t see and I got drops of sweet getting inside my eyes. We only had 30 patients in that room, but we are not enough physicians. And most of us had no idea what to do. If it was not for the nure I have no idea what I would have done. Even the easiest task seemed enormous and unachievable. I forgot how to be a doctor.
I spent the last four years of my life getting a specialisation in audiology. Now it is worthless. I am a general physician again. I will have to get in again tomorrow. I do not want to do it. I get anxious just thinking about it. Then I need to get back three times each week. I am front line now. Hope I am not sick.