When a trauma surgeon is sick and afraid to die

This is almost a full month of quarantine for me. I started this journey early before it was a requirement for all, as a physician with a history of a spontaneous coronary artery dissection,  I knew it would be bad if I didn’t stay put. I risk falling victim to an invisible enemy. Now quarantine is a statewide requirement for all. Some people are still in denial of the severity of the coronavirus. Every day I wake up to the sound of birds and the ambulance sirens. I can hear the ambulances as clearly as I hear the clicking of my keyboard as I type.

The sound of the sirens come at regular intervals, so frequent I can almost time it. On average, about every 15 -to 20 minutes, another alarm sounds off. I know inside that ambulance a person who is suffering and likely has the coronavirus. Someone who is struggling to breathe. If they don’t survive, they may become another body in the back of a hospital, placed into a freezer truck with all the other bodies to be buried or cremated.

“This is an apocalyptic carnage like I have never seen before,” my friend, the trauma surgeon, tells me. “I have never seen death like this before.”

She, who has seen every gunshot, car accidents, and knife wound, is afraid. Now, she lies in bed infected with the virus and tells me she is home alone, and as she medicates herself, she is afraid for her life. She is afraid she may die, leaving her colleagues to cover the ICU feels like abandonment.

When I talk to her, my heart aches, as she does not spare the graphic details. Normally, we can talk about surgical procedures over breakfast and not be bothered by the talk of blood and guts, but this is different. No beautiful pictures are painted for me; she just tells me like it is. Hard, unyielding, sad, and our conversation leaves me in pain—another ambulance in the distance before I could finish the words on this page. The howling has become so familiar. In the past, you didn’t notice the ambulances; they were less frequent, covered up by the New York City noise and traffic; now there is dead silence in the streets with the distant howling of a siren.

Hisla Bates is a psychiatrist.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Leave a Comment

Most Popular

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories