WRITTEN DURING THE PANDEMIC

by Paul Han, MD

As the world changes in the midst of this coronavirus epidemic, I don’t have much time for anything else other than work.  As a lung doctor, I have been overwhelmed by these cases.  Not just physically and mentally, but also emotionally.  Everyone can tell you stories about people who have died, and loved ones who have been sick, and those who have survived that have been wounded by this disease in so many different ways.  Our elderly, our young, our wealthy and poor, and many people in the prime of their lives have succumbed to this disease.  . 

Initially, the difficult part of this disease was how quickly it appeared.  We were unprepared as a community.  In some cases, our leadership failed us: the CDC made mistakes in testing.  Guidance regarding masks (which is an obvious way to decrease infections, mostly to decrease risk of contagion) came so late both in and out of the hospital.  Treatments have not been tested, and we still are unsure which medications to use. 

In my practice, I have had so many of my close patients, and even family members who became sick with Covid-19.  As a doctor, this is one of the most difficult moments: Knowing that you are responsible for someone else’s health and yet feeling or knowing that you are powerless.  What do you do when you are given that responsibility?  You try to get information.  You try to understand the problem better.  You look for answers.  And you pray, just like everyone else.

The one gratifying part of this epidemic has been the way that our community has come together.  Among the physician networks that I belong to, we have been constantly discussing what each group has tried, what different hospitals, and what approaches are working or not working.  The critical care physicians in Bergen County created a network on Slack to share their experience managing respiratory failure.  Many of the Korean physicians in the area collaborated to form a group called Korea