COVID-19 - current parent and anesthesiologist Rob L. asks 'are we done yet'?
We asked current Senior School parent and anesthesiologist Rob L. to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic from his perspective, having worked on the frontline in the USA before relocation to Cambridge. Here is his insightful story.
My name is Rob, and I am the proud parent of a St Mary’s girl! My daughter’s first day at the school was in early January 2021, our whole family having just recently relocated to Cambridge from Texas in the US. I was asked by the school to write a blurb about my experience with Covid-19; here goes!
To start, let me say that I’m an anesthesiologist. I graduated from medical school in the States in 2000, spent some time doing surgery in Texas, then on to anesthesia residency in Iowa. My last decade or so has been spent in private practice at a medical center in Dallas.
As true front-line health-care providers, ICU staff may bear the brunt of the pandemic. In fact, what stands out in my memory as my earliest known Covid contact took place in the ICU. In perhaps February of 2020, I was called to the unit for a semi-elective intubation. Not an emergency request, the caller assured me, but without intervention, the patient would surely succumb before the day was out. There was plenty of time to pull up the patient’s record on the computer. So, like a Facebook stalker, I gathered what I could online. It became clear that the patient suffered from severe lung disease that was resistant to multiple therapies and that a pneumonia was in the mix. Overall, the prognosis seemed poor. I was a bit surprised however, that there was no clear diagnosis, especially considering the gravity of the patient’s condition. How could they not know what was wrong with this guy?
We had been hearing about Covid for some time, but it seemed far away. A problem for Asia, maybe some rumours on the West Coast. It wasn’t until I was about to enter the patient’s room that I realized he probably had Covid, and I admit I got nervous. I assessed my PPE which I quickly decided was inadequate. Then the double gowning, double or triple gloving, face protection etc which would soon become routine, with the attendant donning and doffing. The patient tolerated the procedure well, but died a few days later with arterial blood clots and lung disease.
Similar cases followed, and elective operations ceased. But Covid wouldn’t go away. Trauma patients would come to the operating room (OR) infected with Covid. Healthy young folks with appendicitis would come in infected. Pregnant moms with Covid would come in to deliver, sometimes with disastrous outcomes. Surgeons and OR staff became sick, as well as other hospital workers. My group of 20 partners remained unscathed until the fall of 2020, when one after another after another caught it.
A trip to the Covid unit to pick up or drop off a patient was a bit scary. A sick Covid patient would be on the ventilator, paralyzed, and heavily sedated. The ICU staff in full regalia, unrecognizable and reminiscent of an astronaut, would be outside the room in the hallway. Equipment and tubing would be stretched 10 or 15 feet to the patient, everyone trying to maintain some distance. This exact scenario would be reproduced all the way down an entire corridor, an entire floor, an entire wing, and always growing to take up another floor and another and so on. I couldn’t help but think of some bizarre spaceship with with all the passengers in a cryogenic sleep.
I would go though my own personal decontamination procedure before I left the hospital and again when I got home, and my own personal concern was high. However, at this point, I go through the motions, but my own worry is gone. Short sighted as it may be, part of me wouldn’t mind getting Covid if I could just have some freedom again!