I’m quickly writing this at 6 am, before another 12+ hour shift literally sweating through clothes because it’s so hot under the protective gear. None of which, nor what follows, is meant to be self-serving or arrogant. I’m just doing a job, just like everyone else. There’s nothing special about me or doctors in general during all of this. Or even really healthcare workers because it takes a whole lot of people still just…doing a job to keep this whole thing moving at all. Fire, police, truckers, food service workers, and a million other jobs big and small. It all adds up.
But I also thought, hearing a few small but specific stories from my experience thus far might again underline how important it is to continue social distancing. Because it IS important. And it might just be working, at least in Arkansas. Which means keep it up. But it's also ok to be anxious about it. By definition, if you’re being diligent then you also believe that a lot of people can and will die from this disease. And of course the economic and societal impact is going to be incredible. So, just know that every small decision you make to properly avoid contracting or passing on COVID19 is important. It’s your job. Do your job.
First and foremost, the potential severity of a COVID infection can’t be overstated. I’m directly caring for many of which are positive, and are critically ill (ICU, ventilator, the whole nine yards). Their families can’t visit. Some of them are going to die. And COVID19 will be #1 under cause of death when I complete their death certificate
I’m changing in the garage immediately when I get home. Trying not to hug my five year old. Sleeping in a different room from my wife. Hand washing so much my hands are cracking.
My mother is in the middle of a course of daily radiation for breast cancer. I think every day about advising her not to go the hospital. Knowing full well the consequences of that decision.
There’s a kindly elderly man who works in Environmental Services in my hospital. Cleaning, emptying trash and other services that his job requires. Everyone knows Mr. Lawrence. He always has a kind word for all of us. “Hey doc, how’s it going?” Well, my group of doctors chipped in out of our own pockets and paid him to go home for two weeks. And once that two weeks is over, we’ll happily do it again. So this thing is “Easily Get Doctors to Part with Money” level of serious!
Please don’t panic. Listen to public health officials, not politicians. Try not to murder your children, it’s hard on them too. And stay away from everyone else. It all truly IS appreciated. Until next week.
Dr. Kevin P. Flinn is an Internal Medicine Specialist and Hospitalist in Little Rock. He graduated with honors from University Of Arkansas College Of Medicine in 2007. He is also a graduate of Valley Springs High School.