2020: In Brief

“Be willing to be surprised; be open to the unexpected”.

Wow. To say we had no idea what was coming our way approximately 365 days ago is an understatement. I always like to sit down and reflect a bit before the New Year because it’s a nice transition point to pause, re-evaluate, and reflect. Last year, I wrote myself a motto – “Be willing to be surprised; be open to the unexpected”.

Obviously, the pandemic was the biggest shock. Bringing with it grief, despair, death, sickness, loneliness, poverty. I understand how catching COVID could seem like small potatoes compared to losing your job, missing family, concerts, travel. Many people experience no symptoms, or very mild symptoms. But have you ever witnessed someone getting chest compressions? It’s not delicate. Bones break as you must push hard enough to pump someone’s stopped heart from the outside. When someone “codes” it seems like the entire hospital gathers outside the room. To offer assistance to the providers working hard to bring the patient back to life. Literally.

At the beginning of December, a call from my medical school came out to 4th year students like myself to help. The COVID units were overflowing with patients and the hospitals were preparing for the holiday surge of cases. After many months of pushing hospital providers to their limits they needed help.

Let me tell you, it was scary.

I feel incredibly grateful for how sheltered I’ve been from COVID. Since I’m going into General Surgery, all the patient’s I’ve worked with over the last few months have to test negative before coming to surgery. In the trauma ICU, we were considered the COVID-free ICU. December was my first time coming face-to-face with the sickest of COVID patients. I called families to update them on their loved one’s health and our plans for the day since they couldn’t come to visit. I checked labs and monitored kidney function. I did whatever I could so that the providers could go home when their shift ended instead of hours after.

Thankfully, our hospital numbers have gone down, but there are many places where cases are still spiking, and while we can certainly make space to put patients, who is going to take care of them? There are only so many nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse assistants, doctors, housekeeping staff.

It’s exhausting always feeling like we have to weigh the risks of our decisions. But we need to keep doing just that.

I got the first dose of the vaccine (will get the second soon), but I will continue to check in with my choices before I walk out the door. To protect my family, my friends, my loved ones, and then ultimately to protect you because we are all connected.

As I’m sure you can relate, I’m hoping for a little less of the unexpected this coming year. More certainty sounds nice. But, if life has taught me anything it’s that uncertainty is for certain. So, while I pray for some peace and certainty, I’ll keep on trying my best to live in the moments and love the people who come my way.

This will be my motto for 2021: “Ask more questions than I answer – seek to understand”.

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