A Doctor’s Diary: Looking forward: A new and, perhaps, better normal

(The 10th and final installment of a special Efe series featuring the first-hand account of pediatric surgeon Colleen Fitzpatrick, who offered her support to an ICU for adults at a community hospital outside New York City, the global epicenter of the coronavirus)

New York, May 14 (efe-epa).- By the time this is published, I will have finished working in the COVID-19 unit at a community hospital on Long Island, New York state.

Because I was working in a unit with patients known to have COVID-19, I am currently self-quarantining for two weeks before returning to my house in St. Louis, Missouri, where my parents are now staying.

In the New York City area, the number of cases has noticeably decreased in recent days. The volume decreased sufficiently to allow the unit at Syosset Hospital to return to its normal function as a recovery room for the OR (operating room).

While working in the unit, I saw far too many patients die from COVID-19, but I also saw some of the best humanity has to offer.

From my vantage point, that was most obvious in the health care workers who rose to the challenge, working long days and nights, working outside their comfort zones, working under extraordinarily demanding emotional circumstances and fighting a disease that plays by its own set of rules.

But I have also seen it in the community. Day after day, restaurants and families brought breakfast, lunch and dinner for the hospital staff. Signs of thanks have been posted at every hospital. Many homes in the neighborhood are adorned with pictures and signs made by school-aged children, while others have yard signs thanking health care and essential workers.

And each night at 7 pm you can hear the cacophony of car horns and people clapping and cheering.

The community has made the sacrifice to stay home, slowing down the rate of disease spread and allowing the overwhelmed hospital systems time to catch up.

People patiently wait in line to go into stores and follow social-distancing guidelines. There seems to be a sense of common purpose, a feeling of shared responsibility.

That is not to say it has been easy for everyone or that the burden has been shared equally, and many are growing impatient.

At times, I find myself wanting things to get back to “normal,” but I have come to realize that version of normal no longer exists. It will have to be a “new normal,” and perhaps a better normal, if we do it right. This is a chance for us to decide what is important and truly valuable and an opportunity to create a world with more caring and respect.

Without fail, every time I updated a family with bad news, or called about a death, the conversation invariably ended with them thanking me and the team and wishing us health and safety.

Honestly, it consistently caught me off guard and I had to choke back tears every time it happened. It is perhaps the most profound generosity I have witnessed.

If we squander this unique opportunity to create a better world community, it will be a dishonor to those we have lost and a disservice to those they have left behind.

This series draws to a close at a time when more than 4 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus and over 290,000 deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 worldwide. And New York state remains the biggest epicenter of the pandemic, with some 338,000 confirmed cases and 27,000 deaths. In New York City alone, the death toll exceeds 20,000. EFE-EPA


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