April 10, 2020

Reading the news

My dear friend retired a few years ago after reading the morning news on a national radio station every weekday for years. I was always comforted when I would hear his voice. Hearing his voice always made me feel like everything would be OK. I often felt like he was talking directly to me. I wondered how he could do that everyday for so long. He told me once that when he would start the day, he would think of one of his friends and read the news to them. I guess he was talking to me, after all.

Now I understand what he meant, or at least I think I do. When I sit down to write every evening for the past 6 weeks, I think about my friends and family and what they may be feeling. Somehow I sense what fears they are having, what puzzles them, what they want to know more about, wondering how they can help. And I write to them, I write to you. I teared up just now thinking about that and you all. These are tough times and communication and education are what can help us get through this and keep us safe. I have also learned over the years as a physician, that everyone has similar worries and concerns about their health and their loved ones. Naming those fears can help ease them.

Learning how to discern what is fact and what is not is a challenge, especially since the virus is so new, claims are made with little proof, ideas are pushed before they are proven. The information can easily lead us astray, such as whether hydroxychloroquine really works. The data is not clear, certainly it may be dangerous and pushing it’s use is causing shortages of the drug for those with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis that depend on it. This article explains some of the reasons why the claims about hydroxychloroquine may be doubtful.

Be leery of claims of cure or prevention, beyond the hand washing, physical distancing, wearing masks. Trust me, the medical community is trying multiple treatments to see what seems to work, but using formal research to get the data. The clinical trials help the data to be analyzed to see if there is a true effect. I know that many hospitals in Seattle and elsewhere are working on getting data and finding what works. At one hospital here, I have been told that almost everyone in the ICU is in a trial! Yes, some of them are receiving hydroxychloroquine to see if it does work. Sources of information are important too. Conspiracy theories abound. Be thoughtful about where you get your information. Including from me, I may have missed something.

And you are all doing an amazing job at slowing this epidemic down. And we can’t get complacent yet. We are getting closer to start opening up the country again, but there is still a little more work to do. Hang in there. Don’t forget to call your mother (or your brother or your friend)

Wash your hands!

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.