Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician, St. Joseph’s University Medical Center
We healthcare providers are doing exactly as we were trained. We have all had situations or patients with contagious diseases and our job is to care for them with all our skills and training. I had been trained for a possible Ebola outbreak a few years back and initially, I thought this would be the same. However, that outbreak thankfully never came, but COVID-19 did. Except for a fleeting moment, as you are driving to work, you gown up, put on your hat and masks, and for the most part, don’t think about yourself. Admittedly, it was not easy walking into the ER with patients lined up against the walls, coughing, with no curtains to provide some distance from you, or from the next patient. Gloves and gowns being strewn all over. Multiple crashing patients. Patients being intubated round the clock. Our waiting room was retrofitted to be a makeshift patient bed area. The outpatient area became the waiting room and was filled to capacity with patients being placed on supplemental oxygen waiting to be seen. Protective gear being rationed and reused longer than we ever thought its life expectancy to be. Thank God, many children were not as sick as the adults, but some children were very, very sick. To help our adult colleagues the pediatric physicians began seeing adult patients. This was unprecedented. We all sincerely believe that it is our mission to care for our patients, who need us, even more so in a pandemic. This is what drives us. My colleagues and I supported each other. We had more frequent Emergency Department (ED) meetings to share our experiences, knowledge, to discuss what was working, what wasn’t, what we were seeing, what equipment we had available day to day, so that the next provider was aware and ready. We were there for each other. EVERYONE from environmental workers cleaning each room before and after a Covid patient, to bedside registrars, to nurses and doctors, everyone worked above and beyond. The selflessness of my colleagues pushed me to do more. How could I complain? I was alive. I often say that the ED is a world unto itself. When you are there, you don’t know if it’s snowing or raining outside, you don’t know if it’s day or night. Once you are in the ED, you are there for your patients. That’s it. We are blessed to be able to help; and with that, we push forward.
It’s also interesting to reflect back at my family life at the time. As much as my family was worried, I was more worried about putting them at risk. On top of everything they were experiencing being home with zoom school and not being able to get together with family or friends, I had to try to keep a positive attitude. Of course, we talked about the pandemic, work, and the need to be careful and protect ourselves but we didn’t really talk about putting myself at risk. I was doing my job. How could I not? No one said, don’t go to work, don’t put yourself at risk. At work, I was careful, to the best of my ability. When I got home I immediately showered in the basement shower. I put my clothes in a plastic bag and washed them separately. We had separate towels for each person and for a while I “air hugged” my family to minimize the chance that I would get them sick.
I am honored to be featured in this forum. I loved Ida Crown Jewish Academy. We worked hard and I have amazing memories of my four years there. I have tremendous Hakarat Hatov that I had the very best Judaic and Secular teachers who supported me and continue to inspire me even so many years later. I have been in Israel for the past three months and I am often asked how is it that my Hebrew is so good for having been in here for such a short time. My answer surprises them when I reply that I had a very strong Ivrit teacher in high school, Mrs. Bass A”H. It is at ICJA that I made lifelong friends. We are always there for each other and they support me in all my endeavors.