Family and medicine: a day in the life during the pandemic

Sunlight creeps through the living room blinds. We have taken to sleeping here now on the giant sectional sofa. Most days, there is no reason to set an alarm. The dog stirs, moves from where he was nestled against one child to stretch out alongside another.

My son rolls over, clutching the impulsively purchased Sunday Citizen throw around his bony frame. He is wearing his quarantine uniform – buffalo plaid flannel pants paired with a Dr. Seuss pajama shirt. The face of the Grinch’s dog, Max, is emblazoned across his chest. During a home school social studies lesson on imports and exports, we will learn that this shirt was made in Peru.

My oldest daughter eventually makes her way to the basement where her workstation is set up. She is completely abandoned to “remotely learn” on her own amongst the laundry baskets and camping gear and stacks of old drawings and photos.

The youngest is missing out on “all she really needs to know” during this season of life. She is cheated out of storytimes and line leading and resting on a mat after lunch and recess.

I corral the younger two over and over again while we slog thought the lists of tasks and subjects, fueled by the obligation to submit scans or photos of their work to teachers, fueled by my desire for them to learn things while we are stuck in the house.

Many days I connect to Zoom or WebEx and half-heartedly listen in to the ever-changing workflows of my jobs as a hospitalist physician and a residency program leader.

The only constant is change. And change. And more change.

The initial urgency of keeping up with all of the changes lessens over time, picks up again when I escape from my home to the hospital to work a shift.

But as it plays out, it seems that the most pertinent changes for us pediatricians are that there are fewer patients, less work, less revenue.
More protocols, more meetings, more stress.

As the weeks go by at home, there are fewer puzzles, less baking, less “optional” schoolwork.

More takeout, more screen time, more wine.

The kindergartner’s dyed hair fades from black to purple to the color of blue Gatorade.

We walk at dusk most evenings, taking note of such mundane sights as a gravel pile or a new telephone pole.

The sun dips between the houses and trees along our route, punctuating what is visible of the skyline in thick swaths of pale blue fading into orange.

As dusk turns to night, we often gather again on the giant sectional sofa and watch a movie; we have made our way through most of the classic Disney cartoons by now.

Most nights, the kids and the dog and I drift off to sleep on the sofa, our bodies and minds seeking respite from these strange and tedious days.

Sunlight creeps through the living room blinds. We rise and do it all over again.

Lisa Sieczkowski is a pediatrician. 

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