April 27, 2020

Moral Injury

So much news to digest. The most heartbreaking is the suicide of the ER doctor from New York, so sad and so senseless. This tragically has potential to be the first of many, due to the bitter self-loathing that comes from moral injury. When the medical system is overwhelmed, the ability to care with quality is the first thing to die. Health care workers make grave decisions and feel helpless, haunted by their choices and the suffering. Haunted by their own fear. Haunted by their own survival, when colleagues don’t.

I have written about moral injury which is what soldiers can feel in war and I have been worried for the frontline workers, especially in hospitals with big surges. She is as much a victim of the mismanagement of the pandemic as the patients. My heart weeps for her and her loved ones.

These are times that will try us all. We are assailed by conspiracy theories, dealt bad hands by politicians, threatened with financial ruin, and lonely as hell. Not to mention, afraid for our own health and livelihoods. Those of us in abusive relationships are at risk as well.

And for so many places, the curve was flattened so well, many people are influenced by misguided “data” and theories that they now think the shutdown is worse than the disease, because so many less died than predicted. Please don’t make that mistake. Honor Dr. Breen and all the other healthcare workers by maintaining distance and staying sensible. Honor her by disputing that the shutdown wasn’t worth it. We in Seattle came so very close to this same scenario. Her story could be the story of so many more of us.

We are starting to open up this country, but we are not out of the woods. We saved lives by staying home, but the virus is still there and has potential to bite us still. We will be watching and adjusting our behavior for a while. R(0) <R-naught> our old friend will be watched carefully by Health Departments all over the country. And when it starts to rise, you will be asked by them to distance physically again. Cooperate. It will save lives and save heartbreak.

I know none of this is easy to hear or write. We are not going back, we are moving forward together. Anxiety and stress are skyrocketing for many. And it is good to know that new resources are available almost daily. Here is my favorite new APP: COVID Coach, from the VA, it is a valuable source to help with anxiety, fear, depression, and other stresses we are having now.

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.mobile.va.gov/app/covid-coach

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/27/nyregion/new-york-city-doctor-suicide-coronavirus.html

https://betsybrownmd.substack.com/p/april-21-2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/27/nyregion/new-york-city-doctor-suicide-coronavirus.html