Day 2 – Good news from Italy where the curve seems to be flattening, although the Premier of Ontario has called a State of Emergency here. However, my own feeling throughout the day was disbelief:
- Disbelief that people still think we can have visitors on an inpatient unit.
- Disbelief at the woman canvassing for charity on my doorstep.
- Disbelief that there were St. Patrick’s Day parties…in public…at bars…with people!!!!
But then there are other situations that are also not believable: sad, worrying realities. My hospital has begun to bring in cots, potential beds in case the number of cases of COVID-19 becomes so great that my hospital must admit extra patients to make room for patients in general hospitals. A medical school friend who works in a rural ER is working with a colleague to assemble ventilators from existing parts, like an end times DIY project. These are necessary measures we don’t want to use, but must be ready to use. Doctors and nurses across Canada are practicing for an epidemic that IS COMING, robing in Personal Protective Equipment, learning to use new instruments, studying long forgotten epidemiology and virology. The good news is that the health care system is GETTING READY. Everyone else is at home, but health care workers are poised and working to be as ready as we can be. How do you prepare for the unknown?
I am doing what I must to stay healthy and well and centred. As a psychiatrist, I will not be on the front line of COVID-19 but, to continue with the military analogy, I will be with the Mobile Army Hospital. The health professionals I work with and I will be the ones our colleagues come to for care after they are wounded – and the greatest wounds will be emotional. COVID-19 will show First World doctors and nurses and hospital administrators how fragile our system really is. That will be devastating – the doctors and nurses of Italy who have had to witness how their system failed have been traumatized. It is clear they were overwhelmed by the horror they ultimately faced. They had to choose who would live and who would die – my heart goes out to them. Who wouldn’t have been overwhelmed? Who wouldn’t have been changed forever?
The only thing that will make it possible for us to defeat this is how well we work together. It is the teamwork and loyalty of soldiers that allows armies to prevail. I know that the front line of doctors and nurses in Canada will work as hard as they can in this crisis. I am determined to support them, to be there if I’m needed, when they’re overwhelmed.
This is a photo of a peony from my garden. My peonies bloom in May and I wonder what will have happened by May. I love peonies and, as I write this, I can also smell their pungent perfume. As I work hard for the next few months, I will think of the peonies blooming and May and June.