An advertisement for COVID 2020

Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed both at work and at home?

Perhaps you’re thinking, my job as an anesthesiologist isn’t anxiety-provoking enough; I should probably homeschool my kids at the same time.

When’s the last time you uttered the phrase, “This is the most stress I’ve ever experienced” multiple days in a row?

Come on over, COVID 2020 has got you covered!

First, we’ll start with the existential threat of a global pandemic—one of those things that starts half a world away. You’re a frog in tepid water. For a while you’ll think, hey, they’re probably exaggerating the apocalyptic potential on the news, and the snow’s looking really good for skiing this weekend except, suddenly Italy does not look good. Italy is nowhere near China. What’s this about one of those cruise ships docking in San Francisco? Is this water boiling?

You don’t have time for that because your nanny just resigned! Don’t worry; there will be no animosity. After all, she’s 65 and working for two physicians, and you kind of agree with her. Did you ever want your neighbors to avoid you at all costs? You’re in luck – you’ll become the scarlet letter family in the neighborhood, overnight! You’ll tearfully part ways, and when the haze lifts, it’ll hit you, wait, did that email just say school was canceled?

Well, yes it did! Are you not independently wealthy and trained in education, just waiting for this opportunity to teach your kids and perform hot lunch duty on the side, while power texting your supply chain director about why anesthesiologists are very much in need of PPE? Never fear, COVID 2020 is here to remind you of all your lifetime inadequacies. Join us in searching for neatly curated school schedules on social media outlets that are created specifically to make you feel even worse about the job you’re doing as a parent. While you hunt down your child’s math workbook, you will get another 63 messages on your workgroup text about literal life or death problems. In COVID 2020, go ahead and doff that uncomfortable parenting noose: Google classroom and Netflix will take it from here. Who even remembers what they learned in 3rd grade? Certainly not the word “doff”!

Did someone say supply chain? Don’t let your germ alluring cell phone slip out of its plastic baggie; you’ll need it for 100+ emails a day between you, your department, and people in positions you have literally never even heard of who are suddenly the most popular people at your hospital. Proving your worth by sending phrases like “I look down people’s throats for a living, I very much need an N95 please and thank you” is in your job description now. You’ll work day and night for weeks to procure PPE (even your please-don’t-leave-the-house-years-old parents will know what this stands for by late March) by any means necessary, including hitting up what’s-her-name-from-college on Facebook for a mask she made with a sewing machine because that’s life in the new roaring ’20s.

You’ll stand outside patient rooms for hours, having this actual conversation with ICU nurses: is he on 2 L now, or is it 3 L? You read that, right! In COVID 2020, 6 liters of oxygen by nasal cannula never looked so bad. Remember that famous quote in Miller, “If they’re over 6 L for 10 minutes, please call anesthesia stat and have them lie on their stomach until I can get there and also have the nursing supervisor bring extra PAPRs”? No? Well. It’s new.

You won’t have time to exercise, but it’s fine; the intubations take 2 hours from start to finish, and with four layers of protective clothing and the stress of no additional help in the room, you will sweat more than you ever have in your life, including that one marathon you eked out before medical school. Who needs a shiny thermal blanket afterward when you’ve got the opportunity to use the never-have-I-ever OR locker room shower! Don’t forget your kids’ walkie talkies and a whiteboard. We won’t tell you what they’re for, but trust us, you’ll want them.

Before you can even come up for a gasp of air between crashing waves, the country will declare a frighteningly premature victory, the ironic likes of which have not been seen since 2003 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. You will be celebrated as a hero on neighborhood yard signs while people murmur about how they’re kinda bored, and maybe this was all overblown. If you live in New York or New Jersey, nobody will say that. Your hospital administration will slowly tighten the purse strings on staff and declare the operating rooms safe and ready for elective surgeries faster than you can say, “They know there’s only one anesthesia department to make up for every surgical department’s backlog, right?”

And it doesn’t stop there! Grocery shopping is impossible! You’ll get naked in your garage and shout to everyone in the house “Don’t touch me!” every time you come home! Amazon deliveries take weeks now, and you will bow your head in reverence upon receipt of the sidewalk chalk your kids very much no longer care about.

COVID 2020 is here waiting for you, along with the happiest version of your dog, your mother who misses all of humanity but is delightfully kind of into Zoom calls, and all Dean Koontz cult followers from their North Dakota bunkers because he literally predicted this in 1981 no matter what Snopes tells you.

Jody Leng is an anesthesiologist.

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