Seemingly overnight the roles I have played for most of my adult life have changed drastically – my role as a doctor and the role I have as a mother. I signed up for both, but they couldn’t be farther away from their original job requirements.
Let’s start with the doctor side of the equation. I’m a practicing cardiologist during the most dangerous time there is to be a doctor. I’ve never thought about my job in any other way than in the black and white world I knew- the one where science, medicine, and facts helped me do my job- save lives. The world I knew let me control the outcomes. It let me know for the most part who would live and who would not- who I could save and who I couldn’t. It allowed me to use my expertise and science to do the impossible no matter what the odds. I was the one who had the control, not the disease or the injury. I was the one who could unblock arteries, put in stents, do CPR, or whatever it took to make sure my patients lived.
All of that has completely gone out the window. Covid-19 has smashed our medical confidence for the time-being. The control we all thought we had has given way to something doctors detest the most– uncertainty. We really don’t do well with not knowing what to do and this virus is truly testing us. Right when we think we have it figured out it pivots and swerves. No one can truly predict who is at risk. Even kids, the one cohort we thought we didn’t have to worry about are now suddenly part of the risk landscape. So far fifteen children in NYC have been found to have a post Covid infection reaction and are in the ICU. Several of my cardiac patients are scattered throughout New York City city hospitals and I am unable to be the one to take care of them. Doctors are losing the control we thought we had but never really did.
Covid-19 has made us realize that despite our best intentions, we don’t really have control over saving lives or even our own lives. Losing control has helped me gain invaluable perspective. It has given me a whole new sense of pride, and respect for my fellow doctors, and nurses and re-framed that respect in ways I never imagined. Before my reverence was based on proficiency- who was the best at what they did? Don’t get me wrong- I will always value a doctor’s skills, but now I realize what we do as doctors and nurses is something much greater than saving lives. It is the practice of treasuring the fragility of life and understanding that sometimes we cannot control it and the best we can do is to share the best of ourselves when it begins to slip away from us. Who we are, when we can’t do anything but be there in the moment when patients die, is just as meaningful as saving their life. I’ve been moved by colleagues who in their patient’s last hours have been the last conduit to last conversations- holding cell phones up to their patients’ ears so they could hear the loving words of their wives, sons, daughters, husbands and partners say goodbye. You do not learn how to do that in medical school. No one trains you for this. That is the job of being human and that is what I am deeply proud to represent and bring into my own practice.
Now for my other job that’s just as challenging- my job as a Mom and my most recent second job as a “stay at home” Mom. As two working parents with three kids, my husband and I have always had to depend on someone else to help us with our everyday lives. Let me tell you, this has been a huge eye-opener and has given me a newfound respect for anyone who is a stay at home parent. There is no such thing as working Moms and stay at home Moms – they both work hard- some just stay at home. Stay at home work is hard and relentless. Having now been the head of sweeping, vacuuming, Cloroxing, on-line grocery shopping, detoxer of said groceries, laundry doer and folder (I can fold a full load of laundry in less than four minutes flat and sweep the kitchen floor in under three – yes I am competitive!), I am blown away by just how hard it is to “stay home.” Thank God my husband can cook or we would be in SERIOUS trouble. (BTW – it’s been weeks since I have changed the sheets but let’s not talk about that).
Despite the difficulties, the staying at home experience has been pretty rewarding. Pre-COVID all three of my children were in school all day and then had various after school activities- soccer, tennis, Hebrew school, debate, sewing … and the list goes on. I hardly saw them. On weekends – as a family, we had at least five different sports games and they liked to see their friends at night (I get it!) and they really miss that. But there is something so amazing about taking a pause – having dinner as a family every night, watching movies together on a Saturday, taking the dog for walks together. These things are also part of my new normal – having true family time and getting to see my children and husband in ways that I haven’t before.
COVID- 19 has turned the world upside down and back again. I know it will continue to upend my life and the lives of so many others. I know now that I can’t control what I thought I could, but what I realize is that for all that Covid-19 has stopped it cannot stop us growing physically, emotionally and spiritually and for that I’m truly grateful. Be safe out there and stay well.
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