The quiet death of confidence

Have you ever walked into a hospital before shift change in the early morning hours?  The lights are dimmer, there is scarce staff walking to their floors, and people are counting the minutes until the new staff comes.  Most staff exist in this survival mode to get to the arrival of the new nurses.  Sometimes you can even smell the burned coffee sitting on the bottom of the coffee maker.  That smell used to make me nauseous coming off of call on an empty stomach.

When I arrive at that time, it’s like everyone, and everything is moving in slow motion.  I was joking with a friend that we were like the sloths in a Disney movie.  The problem is, the staff and physicians are tired now.  Not just at shift change, but all day, every day.  Most health care workers crave some recognition from the public that they realize that the pandemic is real and that the U.S. response has failed.

In the OB/GYN world, we take care of patients that are anxious and vulnerable.  During the pandemic, we see exponential increases in postpartum depression and anxiety.  Every emotion in pregnancy and postpartum is still present, just for many is heightened because of the current state of the world.

The data coming out on the performance of pregnant patients diagnosed with COVID demonstrates what many of us already assumed to be true.  These patients are going to be at higher risk for severe disease.  However, they are also in a unique position that they need medical care. Many high-risk obstetrics patients with comorbidities need to come into the clinic to see us more often, increasing their exposure risk.

The OB/GYN community has slowly pushed its COVID 19 request lists.  Most physicians I know realized what we needed in terms of PPE, testing, patient care, and staff protections.  However, these same physicians feel some sense of betrayal by the governmental agencies that have been politicized.

The government saw us struggling to manage the misinformation and trying to protect our patients.  They heard us ask for help, to get us PPE that we need to serve our communities, and yet, they sat at the sidelines or took another golf cart to the course.  Physicians, nurses, and hospital staff have forfeited their normal lives to care for others.

Although we have sacrificed so much to protect our health care communities, we were blamed for COVID.  Accusations that we weren’t re-using PPE enough were made, all while some states had nurses and physicians wearing garbage bags in place of gowns.  We were accused of inflating COVID numbers for financial gain, while many physicians took pay cuts to help their practices survive this turmoil.

Silence is complicity, and the people who knew and didn’t protect Americans’ lives are complicit in their death.  A COVID death is quiet and solemn.  Most of these patients are alone, in an ICU, and the only sound and movement is that of the machines they are hooked up to to support their breathing before the tube is removed.

Kellie Lease Stecher is an obstetrician-gynecologist, M Health Fairview Center for Women, Edina and Eden Prairie, MN. She can be reached on LinkedInFacebook, and on Medium @kellie.stecher.

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