We’re ALL Helping

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Following Content Also Features as a Guest Blog Post from Practice Balance.

Physicians all over the world are fighting a battle. The war references are ubiquitous:

  • Front lines
  • PPE armour
  • Gearing up
  • Game face

I’m proud to be a member of this “army” that’s working hard to contain the death and destruction of COVID-19. And yet, I’m currently on the sidelines of battle. I’ve got a mild case of COVID FOMO.

The other day, I received a message from a friend. One who had also been a patient, who I took care of as part of my infertility anesthesia practice, and who I also coached offline through her journey to motherhood. She said, “How are you holding up? Thank you for all that you do.”

(Insert embarrassed emoji face here…)

On the sidelines

I’m still on my sabbatical, which technically is supposed to end in June. I had another locum tenens assignment scheduled this spring, but it was cancelled. I’m an anesthesiologist – an airway expert who knows how to manage ventilators and take care of very sick people – but I’m not using those skills. Instead, I’m laying low, quarantining at home with my family like many other people.

It’s not out of refusal to work in these conditions. When the curve started going exponential and our end-of-sabbatical travel plans were cancelled, I reached out to my department to tell them I’m available if/when they need me. I’ve been listening to the conferences, following the emails. A little part of me wants them to need me, but a big part of me feels relief for not having to put myself and my family in harm’s way. I’ve always said that my ego identifies very little with being a doctor. But maybe there’s more identification than I’d like to admit.

I saw a friend who left her job in healthcare to be a stay at home mom say on Facebook that she “feels useless.” Another anesthesiologist in my practice group, an aging doctor who recently left clinical practice and has some health challenges of his own, lamented the same in a department-wide email. But you know what he did? He sent out a recording of a music piece that he had composed and recorded himself. Turns out he’s an accomplished pianist and cellist (my instruments – a man after my own heart!) And then he sent another. And another.

“I will contribute in the only other way I know how – with music,” he wrote. And he continues to send a weekly piece with inspirational words attached.

THIS is helping too!

What am I doing

It made me consider how else I’m helping right now. If I write one thing on my blog or on social media that inspires someone to take the initiative to better know themselves, to better take care of themselves, or to strip away the thoughts, feelings, and STUFF that’s keeping them from doing so, then I’ve helped in some way.

I’m living by example; I make sure to take care of myself first and foremost… by sleeping as well as I can, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting some fresh air every day (with appropriate social distance).

For my 4 year old daughter, who doesn’t understand why she can’t play with her friends or swim or slide down the slide at the park right now, I’m navigating a fine balance of keeping her safe but maintaining a level of normalcy and fun. This means sometimes not doing the things I want to do.

With my husband, I’m making sure we’re self-reliant in a time of potentially scarce resources. We have a solid emergency fund, and we’re working on our will and emergency access information. We have extra food and supplies. We live well below our means and can adjust our spending easily if we need to. We check in on our neighbors, and we call our out-of-state relatives much more often these days to see how they’re doing.

If you’re social distancing and making sure other friends and loved ones are doing the same, then you’re helping. If you’re homeschooling your children, you’re helping. If you’re Facetiming your parents more often, you’re helping.

There are of course other, more visible ways to help in a nonclinical capacity: donating time and money to organizations, using skills (like sewing masks) to help friends and neighbors. But the point I want to make is that there are lots of ways people are contributing and finding meaning in this pandemic.

Blog Post Excerpt from Practice Balance.

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