“Early in the pandemic, one of my patients was critically ill and was a PUI (patient under investigation for COVID). I called their family member and they had one request: ‘Can I speak to them? At least I can hear their voice.’ I put my phone in a plastic bag and placed it beside my patient’s ear to let them speak to each other.
It struck me then: at a moment when this person was leaving the world, they were surrounded only by me and a nurse. We were both tearful and were barely able to make eye contact with one another.
We are all human beings, and nobody wants to die alone. I was the last human contact for that patient.
It also made me mindful that apart from imparting information regarding active medical issues for each patient, I also hand over information regarding which family members to contact for [updates]. Recognizing what matters to humans has been a philosophy that has really stuck with me.
I’m not scared, but the pandemic has made me more aware and reflective of my own mortality.
It has reminded me what I truly value in my life: my health, my life, and my family. My family is incredibly proud of me, but it has changed life at home as we know it. I’m in a separate bedroom with a separate washroom. I haven’t hugged or kissed my children in weeks. They realize the risk – we talk about the knowns and the unknowns – but it is new for everyone. We’ve all had to be open to uncertainty in a way that is unfamiliar to all of us.
What is certain is that we are all learning together. As Plato says, ‘be kind – because everyone is fighting a hard battle.’ Whether you’re a staff, resident, patient or family member, we must all be there for one another.”
This interview was conducted on April 17, 2020.