March 17, 2020

Sober

Actually, I am not being sober at this moment. I am drinking some fine Irish whiskey, RedBreast to be exact, that Jamie is sharing with me for St. Paddy’s Day. Odd to have St. Patrick’s Day be so quiet around town, with restaurants and bars shut down. My street, apparently, is lively, even though I am away. With the kids not in school, neighbors are helping with activities and finding ways to work together to help each other and keep the kids active (with proper distance, of course). I feel so lucky to live on this block. And to live in this town where people are reaching out, planning how to stay in touch, and offering help. These are the gifts I see right now, and I am grateful.

But today actually was sobering for me. Our hospital doctors are asking for help from us, planning for being overwhelmed, which they say is coming soon. News from the ICU and the very sick was not good, hearing that even younger, healthy patients can crash and end up on respirators, due to their immune systems overreacting. They may not survive. They were not part of the high risk group, last week they had a negative test, and a few days later, here they are surrounded by doctors and nurses fighting for their lives. The numbers I see from different epidemiology studies are truly sobering, with more deaths than some of us can bear. Soon, coming to your town too, there will not be enough respirators to keep people alive. Hard choices will be made. And we are using up our PPE, some clinics faster than others. PPE is the Personal Protective Equipment that health care workers wear to protect themselves from exposure: face masks, eye shields, gowns, and gloves. We cannot safely care for patients without it. I truly fear for my friends who are doing this direct care. I fear for myself too, and my patients, my family, my world. We are all at risk here. None of us is immune.

I wish I could say more comforting words, but we truly are heading for unprecedented times. There are some signs of light though. The cooperation between countries is astonishing and I just wish the United States could do better. Today (or was it yesterday? time speeds along) Kaiser started their vaccine trial. It will still take about 18 months, but the fact it is begun is key. More importantly, I have heard word, too, about several treatments in clinical trials looking at how effective they are. There is some hope with early data.

And that is why slowing the epidemic down is key. We won’t have a vaccine soon enough, but we may get effective treatments. Flatten the curve! And don’t delay in telling your loved ones that they are loved.

Oh, 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.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/science/coronavirus-treatment.html