April 13, 2020

Reliable Sources

In my first year of med school back in the dark ages, our professors told us that the knowledge of medicine was evolving and that half of what we learned would be obsolete in 5 years. They were wrong. It was more than half. When I was in school, I learned that stomach ulcers were caused by alcohol, tobacco, and stress. Less than 4 years later, a small bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori was identified as the cause. The list goes on about what has changed.

When I started writing these nightly reports, I acknowledged that this is a new virus that humans had no prior contact with, that our understanding of it would evolve. What we thought in the beginning would be wrong, and new insights and solutions would develop over time. And this is what is happening, at a rate that is astonishing to me. Due to the urgency of the pandemic and the dedication of many clinicians and researchers worldwide, knowledge and insights are being shared. This collaboration should be applauded. There is still so much we don’t know, but it is amazing how much we know now after 5 months.

When hospitals have time to prepare with enough resources, they can do amazing things, getting better insights on how to treat patients. Even when hospitals are overwhelmed, they start to see patterns and develop new ways to approach patients. Here is a story about one of the first ER doctors in the Seattle area to get infected who was close to death but the resourcefulness of the people caring for him, gave him treatments to stop the cytokine cascade. He survived to tell his story. There are more stories like this world wide of dedicated people working and sharing their knowledge.

But sometimes less reliable news starts to travel around and conspiracy theories start to circulate. It happens to people on the left of the political spectrum, as well as the right. And that is happening now. Who knows the motivation of the sources, and ultimately it doesn’t matter. Harm is done, whether it is an anti-vaxer who convinces a parent not to vaccinate or a preacher who insists that their God will protect them. But for me, it is the divisiveness that it causes that is so heart wrenching. I have practiced medicine for 3 decades. I have seen the difference vaccines make in lives, most often in the most vulnerable. I have seen people on death’s door from AIDS pulled back into living by medications made by drug companies. I personally feel pretty bad when I am told I am in the hand of “Big Pharma” because I believe in vaccines. And I have felt shock when I have been told that AIDS is a conspiracy and HIV doesn't cause the disease. And now I am full of despair when I see people that I call my friends going down the road of conspiracies about SARS-Cov-2. How can we get out of this if we are divided? And that is why, I believe, the conspiracies are stoked. Together we are stronger, divided we are weaker, more vulnerable, more likely to have more death and despair, unable to move towards a healthier life and planet. Please consider your sources. We are learning about the virus and moving towards the next phase. We need everyone to help us, not divide us.

And 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.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2020/04/09/four-phases-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/evergreenhealth-doctor-opens-up-about-brush-with-death-recovery-after-covid-19/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/symptoms-causes/syc-20356171