This is Amanda. She is an Internal Medicine Resident
“In Mid-March, I had my first ever case of severe COVID-19 while I was on ICU. I never saw her awake the entire time I was there, because she was intubated the moment she arrived. She wasn’t doing well and we were pulling out all the stops in the ARDS (Acute respiratory distress syndrome) toolbox. It was incredibly difficult for her daughter to know her mom was critically ill and not be able to see her. I called her everyday with an update and she was always reading about COVID-19, trying to figure out the right questions to ask.
But the toughest questions were also the simplest. Had I ever seen anyone in her Mom’s state recover? Did intubated patients ever survive? Do people in the ICU ever get better?
On the face it was an obvious answer. Of course, I have seen people survive. Of course some people survive intubation. But not everyone. And I didn’t know which way her mom would go – she may get better and walk away. She may die. People always want firm answers but sometimes we just don’t have any.
It’s tough balancing not wanting to give false hope with not wanting to give false hopelessness.
I think that’s the toughest part of being a healthcare provider in the pandemic, trying to explain COVID-19 or medicine to an individual patient, our own families or the public. You don’t want to be overly fatalistic and have people panic. But you also can’t give people false hope or unrealistic ideas. Both lead people to make poor decisions. Helping people gain a realistic sense of risk, leaving them appropriately cautious – it’s a tough line to walk. Keeping frightened people informed – that’s the real trick of medicine.”