“Earlier this year, I was the ICU physician when the first “possible COVID” patient was admitted. Our unit was filled with veteran SARS staff – both as bedside health care providers and patients. You could cut the tension in the air in anticipation of her arrival to the ICU. While this was the most significant critical care pandemic I have ever faced (and will likely face during my lifetime), this was not their first.
Before I walked in to see our patient, everyone reiterated – spend as little time as possible in there! Every adult in my household is working with COVID, as my husband is an ICU physician and our nanny, Tita Mary, works for environmental services at the hospital.
When I walked into the room to see the “possible COVID,” my heart sank.
“COVID” was a terrified, young, 30-something-year old woman.
It was in that moment that I realized this virus has not only created a global pandemic but is now threatening one of the fundamental principals of modern-day medicine: bedside empathy.
We were all terrified of COVID – but she was equally terrified of COVID. My PPE and initial trepidation only acted to amplify her fear.
I examined her and then held her hand.
All I wanted to do was take down my PPE and give her a hug. I tried to comfort her and reinforced that we are here to support her through this medically and emotionally – but I knew that could never substitute for her family by her side.
This pandemic has certainly robbed us of many things. This taught me to never forget that while our PPE may minimize the risk of acquiring COVID-19, we need to rise above it to ensure it doesn’t minimize our bedside empathy.”