Amidst this grief and isolation, we are, of course, also seeing some patients recover. The first patient I saw with confirmed COVID-19 was a 66 year old man. I remember him distinctly: his face had a tell-tale reddish hue and his hair sat limply on his head. I gazed at him, thinking about the fact that this was my first contact with someone whom I knew had a deadly, pandemic virus. And yet, this man was, overall, doing remarkably well; he was in good spirits; and was wearing a mask because he wanted to protect others. The next patient I saw with confirmed COVID-19 was a sprightly 90 year-old lady who sat on her chair combing her silvery hair. It was uplifting to see her being discharged back to her nursing home later that week.
Being confronted with all this suffering from COVID-19 takes a personal toll. It has made me acutely aware of my inherent vulnerability. With no known medical conditions, and being young, I am in the low risk category; but I am still scared for my own health. Healthcare professionals are exposed to a much higher viral load than the general population. It is a privilege to be able to assist on the front line of this pandemic, but we are not invincible, and we are not always armed with suitable PPE. I also worry for my own family and friends. Then there is the reality of prolonged separation from loved ones; I have no idea when I will be able to see them, even when lockdown is over, for fear of transmitting the virus to some members of my family who are in high risk categories. And I am still very afraid we could reach a crisis point, where we have so many patients coming in with COVID-19, that the workload prevents us from being able to deliver the care that we would like to for each individual patient, and perhaps leads to mistakes in our treatment of patients.