Messages that convey wishes for strength in the age of coronavirus

On a Sunday, it started with a text to an old residency buddy. It started with a text to an old colleague. It started with a text to a current work friend. How are you? Thinking about you. How are you handling this volatile time? Are you ready to jump in where needed? Then came the responses. Quickly. Maybe quickly because we were all stuck at home. It was a Sunday in the age of corona.

Then came the replies. Messages, humorous at times, cloaking serious overtones; messages that turned into phone conversations. Messages reminding each other despite the years in between, of our mutual journeys together. Messages that conveyed wishes for strength.

Messages that offered words of encouragement. Memories that cut through the fog of time reminding each other of the epochs and the diseases we faced together.

Remember? We faced down TB, the mysterious immune deficiency before it was identified as HIV, influenza, malaria, and all manners of gastroenteritis and pneumonia. Remember? We stood shoulder to shoulder and faced down all types of invading microorganisms. Remember, remember, remember.

In those messages of “just checking in, just touching base” is lightly encrypted, “Are you there? Are you frightened too?”

But at the end of the day, frightened or not, when asked if they would go back into the hospital to take care of inpatients or staff emergency rooms or urgent care clinics, despite years away from those areas, the message was always yes.

“Yes. That’s what I signed up for. If it were my family member who needed care, I would hope someone would do the same. It’s just who we are.”

Crisis unroofs emotions. It gives rise to fear and preservation of self but also to the courage and preservation of species. More poignant than either of these drives is the palpable call to arms in those whose profession is founded in the Hippocratic Oath.

The coronavirus has sparked a tsunami of a pandemic. But in its wake is the swell of messages from colleagues whether near or far, past or present. Behind the “great to hear from you” is the unspoken reply.

“I know. I feel it too. But we can do this. It is who we are. I got your back.”

Maureen A. Mavrinac is a family physician.

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