A Doctor’s Diary: Leaving it all behind to help with the tragedy in New York

New York, May 5 (efe-epa).- My name is Colleen Fitzpatrick, I am 46 years old. I’m a pediatric surgeon currently helping support the COVID-19 response in the New York area.

I grew up on Long Island, though I currently live in St. Louis, Missouri. I left my job in St. Louis at the end of October 2019 and was planning to move back home to New York this spring.

My parents, who still live in the same house where I grew up, had driven out to St. Louis at the beginning of March to help me get my house ready to sell. Just as my parents arrived in St. Louis, people started realizing there was a real problem in New York (the state has thus far reported more than 318,000 coronavirus infections and around 25,000 Covid-19 deaths, roughly 30 percent of the country’s total).

Every day we listened to the news with disbelief as the number of cases began to rise exponentially and the health care systems in the area became overwhelmed.

A good friend of mine contracted COVID-19 while working at a New York City hospital, and knowing someone with the disease made things seem more real. It began to feel uncomfortable knowing I was an available health care worker who wasn’t helping out.

As a pediatric surgeon, my core training is in adult general surgery. Trainees in surgery typically spend a fair amount of time working in the ICU. So, while I’m certainly not an expert in critical care, I knew I had a solid foundation from my general surgery training. I didn’t know exactly what role I would fill, but increasingly I felt like I could be helpful and could contribute.

Since I’d been planning to move back to New York, I had already done some job interviews in the area. I reached out to one of the health care systems where I’d previously interviewed to see if they needed help. They did.

So, I packed up my car and headed to my parents’ house in New York, while they stayed at my house in St. Louis with my dog, Curtis. (He’s a black Labrador Retriever who will be 11 years old in August. I really miss him.)



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