Most of you don’t know that I spend my days working in the corporate world. I don’t normally mix the two. But, these are unusual times, and I wanted to share part of my day with you.
Our CEO holds a virtual meeting every day to give us an update. They are always interesting. I’ve learned more about my company than I ever knew. I am prouder to work there than any place I’ve ever worked before. This crisis has brought out the very best in people and we have had to pleasure to listen to many. I often find myself leaving the meeting wiping tears. This morning was no exception.
Today, we were introduced to a doctor who, having been away from practice for years and working in a prestigious position in our enterprise, heeded a call for doctors to come help in the worst of the worst—New York City. Upon hearing the request, he talked to his wife, who is also in medicine. His concern wasn’t the virus, but the fact that his skills might be rusty. She talked about going as well, but they decided someone needed to stay home to handle “things” in case he succumbed to the virus.
With our company helping to expedite the nitty gritty—things like credentials, licenses, insurance (it had been 10 years since he’d practiced)—he headed to New York, where he was assigned to Bellevue. For those of you that don’t know, Bellevue is one of our country’s oldest public hospitals, and was inundated with covid-19 patients when the virus hit New York City. In other words, he was thrust into the bowels of hell. But he took it on, saying returning to practice was kind of like riding a bike, quickly adjusting. Plus, with everything happening so fast, he didn’t have time to worry about his own insecurity. In everything he said, he gave most of the credit to his team. They work together. They are one.
For the patients who are in crisis mode in the ICU, the volume of which is incomprehensible, it takes a variety of specialists to care for one patient. Intubation is far more than sticking a tube down one’s trachea. Besides the pulmonologist, anesthesiologists, possibly surgeons, nephrologists, cardiologists, and even dentists may be needed. Covid-19 proved difficult. Kidneys and other organs began to fail. Clotting quickly occurred. They found that turning patients on their stomachs, known as proning, could help. With a patient intubated, it takes an entire team to do this, all the while keeping the patient alive. Now, picture an ICU overrun with possibly 120 patients, all in distress, filling a straight 12 hours of your day.
Once they have done their twelve hours in these plastic draped halls, surrounded by the constant sound of hissing ventilators, they have to clean themselves and their gear and head to self-contained, quarantined accommodations where their only contact with their families and the outside world is on a flat screen. Mostly, they eat and drop into bed, needing as much rest as possible before stepping back onto the front lines once more. Even when his “tour” is over, he won’t be able to just go home. He will be in quarantine for however long it takes to ensure he doesn’t expose others to the insidious disease attacking our country. As I watched him talk, I noticed the dark shadows under his eyes and the creases on his face from the goggles he had pushed up on the head covering. His mask hung around his neck but its marks still reddened his skin. His emphasis was on all of us protecting ourselves and our loved ones so we don’t find ourselves in need of his care.
He did say one of the things that means the most to them, besides having each other to bolster one another as they trudge through these trenches, is hearing from people. So please, if you know someone who is on the front line or someone who is the family or friends of someone on the front lines, let them know how much you appreciate what they are doing. Send a card. Write a note. Send a text, an email. Whatever means you can, let them know you are thinking of them. They are, after all, the only thing that stands between life and death for so many.