I write to the health care workers and other essential hospital personnel who are at the center of efforts to care for our neighbors during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
I am a pulmonary specialist and critical care physician. I am trained to manage organ failures, including diseases of the lung that require life support with mechanical ventilators. I am exactly the kind of specialist that is greatly needed and desperately lacking in COVID-19 outbreak “hot spots” around the world. And I am sidelined by a near-term pregnancy. Although I feel conflicted about being distanced from the response to this viral tyrant, my struggles are not the purpose of this letter.
I write to tell you that I see you.
I see the lines on your face caused by wearing masks.
I recall the physical pains of hard labor, like what you endure now.
I appreciate the paradox of lying awake at night from adrenaline and worry despite being so exhausted that your brain and body malfunction.
I know of the heartache you carry after watching our neighbors – our patients and their family members – suffer from illness, isolation, and death.
I feel the mental anguish and external pressures of deciding what to prioritize: weighing the compulsion to use your skills to serve others in ways we never imagined against your obligations to and fears for your own family.
And I see you volunteering to do more.
I acknowledge how our local and wide-reaching communities benefit from your genius, vision, and innovation.
I hear your attempts to disseminate our best understanding of the truth.
I witness you raising the tides of quality and compassion through teaching and peer support.
I smile with you during moments of levity and am moved by your acts of solidarity.
I find moments to linger on beauty and grasp at hope as you do.
I am in awe of your courage, marvel at your selflessness, and am overcome by gratitude.
While I cannot truly know what each of you experiences while pressing through these difficult days, the truth of your sacrifices and hardships are visible to some and widely honored. Thank you.
Lisa Vande Vusse is a pulmonary and critical care physician.
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