I am an anesthesiologist. I am trained to stay calm when everything surrounding me is going downhill. In the OR, I am the anchor. The steady hand, the ready plans. I work with skilled CRNAs who are an integral part of the team. We do critical care medicine every day. We don’t run from the chaos. We are always ready to fight the good fight. We don’t scare easily, but yet I am terrified.
I am also a wife to a husband who never signed up to fight this fight or expose himself to what I bring home each day, but still loves me and sleeps next to me each night and puts on a brave face for our girls every morning. A mother of three girls ages 5, 2, and 1 – one of whom spent four weeks in the NICU – all of whom need me in a way that even the most amazing stay at home dad would never replace. A sister who would kidnap me and fight this fight for me if she could. A daughter to a man who would sign over his life for mine without a second thought. An aunt to two nieces and a nephew who I love like my own children. A friend to almost everyone I encounter. A colleague to some of the hardest working people you’d ever meet.
And although I am terrified, I, along with countless health care workers, am waking up each day and going to the hospital. I will be there to guide you through your surgery. I will be there to make sure your airway is secured when you are short of breath, hypoxic, and confused from a fever. But yet my team and I do not have the PPE (personal protective equipment) we need. Would you send a soldier into enemy fire without a gun? Without a helmet? Without clothing?
I know it is not if I get COVID-19, but only how sick I will become when it happens. Will I be lucky enough to only feel poorly for a few days? Will I need a little oxygen? Will I be the intubated instead of the intubator? Will I survive? Will I die alone because no one can visit me? Will my daughters remember me if I do die? Will I be spared but bring the virus home to those I love the most? These are questions I never anticipated asking at the age of 33, and because of the profession I was called to serve. I’m working on getting life insurance for my family if the worst-case scenario happens. I am preparing to potentially die for you. I do not want your sympathy. I do not want your praise. I want you to stay home. I want you to pray for all of us. I want you to demand that we be provided the PPE we need to save your life or the life of someone you love. Now is not the time for self-interest. Now is the time to think about the greater good. If we are to make it to their other side of this, we must all be in it together. Stay home.
I am a Christian. I pray for all of us. However, hiding behind your Christianity and “living without fear” while pretending you are on vacation is not loving like Christ. Do not fool yourselves. This virus is real. It is deadly. It is here. It will get worse. People are dying. More people will die. Staying at home is loving your neighbor (and health care workers) as yourself.
I am not an alarmist. If at the end of this, my fears are wrong and we’ve stayed home for nothing – I will be delighted. If, at the end of this, my fears are right, may God be with us all because our health care system will crumble.
May God bless you. May God bless us all.
Britney Bowling is an anesthesiologist.
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