This week, I was trying to figure out a topic to write about, and it occurred to me that I am writing this on the “anniversary” of when I started to really understand that life was about to significantly change…and almost stop.
Last year, on this date, there was talk about COVID in our office. I thought that I understood the gravity of the situation and that we needed to be prepared for what was to come. We were getting prepped and looking ahead. Dr. Hufnagel, our managing partner, was completely on task and leading our ship. Thank goodness for him! We were trying to obtain more PPE, think about patient flow, learn televisits, and keep each other safe, etc. Preparing for a pandemic and actually being in a pandemic are two very different things. I clearly was not mentally prepared for the latter.
One year ago, today, my husband, Reed, who is an Emergency Medicine physician, called me at work (two days before everything shut down) to say that he thought that our daughters should skip dance class until further notice. He also told me that he thought we might need to pull our three kids out of school since it wouldn’t be safe.
If you know my husband, he is the calmest person under pressure. He is also NOT an alarmist. (clearly ideal for his job) Not only did his urgency completely unnerve me, but it made me irrationally furious. Looking back, I was furious because I was scared. If Reed was suggesting this to me, then this was going to get terrifying fast. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that our kids would be pulled from school and activities just because it “might” get bad. All I could think about was their social-emotional well-being. Were they ever doing an activity again???
Needless to say, I brought up all of these arguments in a less than calm tone. My husband stressed to me that everything was going to be shut down and that this was for the safety of our children. It wasn’t going to be just us. He and others had been following the news from Emergency Medicine physicians in California, and they were seeing what was to come. Two days later, everything shut down. Thank goodness for physicians like Reed, and our own Dr. Hufnagel, who were predicting the intensity of the crisis to come and could picture how to “be” in a pandemic.
The irony of this anniversary (or rather beauty of it) is that I read today that the CDC made some changes in their COVID recommendations for vaccinated individuals. Although we have a long way to go, these changes were the first recommendations that really allowed me to believe that there will be an end to the pandemic and an opening up of life again at some point in the future.
I have spent a lot of the last year in adrenaline mode. There was so much to think about with COVID turning medicine on its side. We needed to be ready to pivot at any time. One day we might be doing televisits in an office, and then the next day we were putting up a tent for outdoor visits. Life was ever-changing even though it seemed to be standing still outside of our office.
Although my coworkers and I have spent more time physically distant from each other for the past year, I certainly think that this year solidified our commitment and love for each other. I was used to sitting in a small pod with about four other people (including Dr. Agoglia) within arm’s reach. Chatting, learning about each other’s families, and hearing the latest antics were all parts of the job that I loved. Now, we each sit in an exam room during the day to provide distance among us……and we have HEPA filters to try to keep our common areas safer. It is a strange sensation to be so distant……and I have no doubt it might take a while for us to get used to being physically close again when we are allowed.
Other small things that have come to mind lately are that many of our new patients have never seen our faces. They have only seen our eyes behind a shield. I truly hope that our eyes are conveying our love for all of them. It is so unnatural not to hug a parent in distress or provide some kind of physical touch. Again, I hope our eyes conveyed what we wished that we could have shown physically at that moment. I hope that at some point soon, our patients may see our smiles, and we can see theirs.
My wish for 2022 is that this “anniversary” is even more exciting and that some parts of covid feel (and truly are) like a distant memory.