Cocktails during COVID-19

During this time of social distancing, most of us are struggling to keep our social connections alive. I found that in this flurry of planning how to continue to care for my orthopaedic patients, making sure childcare is lined up, and setting up “decontamination zones” in my home for my critical care doc husband and me when we come home for the hospital – that I really missed connecting with my friends and family. So, I hosted our first Zoom cocktail party this weekend. Ten couples and the wide variety of topics included: my husband’s toe socks (disturbing), Peloton (who knew it could cause prostatitis), Coors Light hoarding (you couldn’t pay me to hoard even a single can), blankets (good for Netflix binges), boxed wine versus bottle (it’s not that bad), PPE (wow, are we really running that low?).

We are mostly physicians – from a wide variety of specialties, a few dentists, a few in business. We were distanced physically but, in many ways, brought closer by this. We remembered what it was like to laugh until we cried (mostly about toe socks), but then we also had somber moments talking about how life, health care, and our businesses will be forever changed.

‪We talked about how personal protective equipment (PPE) is running low, and worrying about the surge that is right on the horizon for the ones on the front lines – including several in this Zoom chat.  Many of us aren’t sure if our medical and dental practices will survive this pandemic because the elective cases, rightfully so, have been shut down. We are all trying to adjust, continuing to care for patients in this new normal (at least a temporary new normal, we hope).

‪One of my friends, newly minted as a physician leader in a health care organization, told us how real discussions are happening, like they are in Italy – about having to choose. The worst choice that a human could have to make. Choosing who among the critically ill gets a ventilator and who doesn’t when there aren’t enough vents to go around.

And this is when we cried – the men and the women. It’s heartbreaking. Outbreaks will happen. This is just the natural cycle of virology. But it’s enraging to see our supposed first world country in such dire straits, worrying that we don’t have enough PPE or enough vents to take care of everyone. It’s enraging to see spring breakers partying without a care, knowing disease will spread among them, and then subsequently others. And those others might be our parents, grandparents, neighbors, kids, siblings, friends … our doctors, our nurses. This isn’t going to be Kevin Bacon and Six Degrees of Separation; it’ll be one degree. We are all going to know someone that has suffered as a result of this pandemic – whether it be their health or their career and ability to earn an income.

And this – this is why it’s vital for us to keep our connections alive at this time. The support we give to each other, as friends, as colleagues, will be the one constant that will get us through this emotionally. Call, text, check on people. As we are distanced and connected virtually, many of us will have that usual veneer of being “OK” on social media, when deep down, we may be not.

Nancy Yen Shipley is an orthopedic surgeon and can be reached at her self-titled site, NancyMD, and on Twitter @_nancymd and Instagram @_nancymd.

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