If you're like me, there is nothing that has been on your mind more than coronavirus. It seeped into virtually all aspects of our lives, seemingly overnight. Our jobs have changed, our personal lives have changed, the world has changed — in some ways irrevocably.
Do you mark the time before and after the virus? My mother and I do. It's a stark divide. "Do you remember the that little shop we used to go to?" she muses. "You know — before the virus?” I grieve for the before. I fear what the after could bring.
I am overwhelmed by an invisible virus that is entirely out of my control. I find myself becoming easily frustrated by things that once felt trivial — hearing my dog bark again at the people walking past our window or my husband's innocent whistling as he answers his work emails.
There are moments in which I can tune it out and, for a moment, feel normal again. I get wrapped up in a great song or a video chat with my friends. It almost feels like they're in the room. Then, the video call stutters. Or, while walking, I notice children riding their bikes down the street… wearing masks. I am reminded that things are not normal and my friends and family feel even further away.
Whenever I go through something hard, I try to find a lesson to give the experience purpose or meaning. As I walk around my neighborhood block for what's probably the tenth time today, I realize: this might be how our patients and their families feel.
I think of the mother, alone with her child in the hospital for weeks at a time. Does she mark her time with a before and after the diagnosis? Does the teenager with relapsed cancer feel suffocated, looking at the same four walls of their hospital room? Does the father of a child needing surgery lash out at those around him as he silently cries, how am I going to afford this?
Perhaps what we are experiencing — the isolation, the overwhelming feeling of dread or anxiety, the yearning for the before times — lets us peer through a window. We get this chance to better appreciate a piece of the patient and family experience. Now, we might better understand why that patient feels suffocated, or why that father lashed out.
We are all human — doing what we can to cope through an experience we never thought we would encounter.
What we are feeling with the pandemic does not equate to what our patients and families go through. We have the added benefit of being in this together. No one is going to ask you why you're wearing a mask. People understand why you might be having an off day (let’s be honest: right now, we are probably all having off days). And though we feel more isolated, it’s nothing compared to what our patients and their families feel.
So if you were a patient on your caseload right now, what might you need?
How might a social interaction or an opportunity to engage in music impact your coping?
I am reminded of a beautiful quote from Maya Angelou. "At the end of the day, people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel".
I truly believe we are being given a unique opportunity. Perhaps, through this horrible, life-altering and collective experience, we can come together and meet each other in a more human way. Meet our patients and their families in a more human way. Wouldn’t that be something?
I hope you are safe, healthy and finding ways to cope with this new normal.
Be kind. Be well.
Love you all,