Covid 19 – A physician’s reflections

(Week 1 – March 22nd 2020)

It’s mid March and I just finished my first week at the hospital rounding on COVID 19 patients. There were quite a few of my patients who were on the COVID ward, either confirmed positives or awaiting tests results. Usually at this time, hospitals are full and we are only starting to recover from the heavy census flu season which starts in fall. However, this time around, my patient list was shorter than normal since fewer patients were coming to the hospital due to fear of contracting Covid. This was definitely a relief while dealing with the stress of the pandemic.

It’s an understatement when I say COVID 19 was like a parasite constantly vying for space in my brain starting from the minute I woke up this past week. It determined what I decided to wear to work – scrubs instead of slacks, nerdy glasses in place of contacts, no more jewelry like earrings and wedding rings. It dominated the order in which I saw my patients, my conversations with workmates post rounds, small chit chats with nurses and even my interactions with my family post work. First priority after getting home from work was an arduous disinfecting process before I touched anything at home or talked to anyone at home. Unwinding after work at times involved sitting in the car in the garage making group calls/texts with our work COVID CORE group to discuss issues and plan for the challenges in the upcoming weeks.

Concerned about asymptomatic transmission of this virus to family, I self imposed a post work quarantine in the upstairs room. COVID 19 concerns took over my stories shared with them in the living room but only at a safe distance – concerns over running out of PPE, hospitals going overcapacity etc. Dinner together at the same table became a distant memory since I had secured the corner of the family room for all interactions with my family. The days that I could really benefit from some human touch was only rewarded with air hugs and flying kisses. Rain sounds that I play to help me go to sleep didn’t relax me enough. My self induced isolation reminded me that of my sick patients who had no say in the matter thanks to the strict ‘no visitor’ policies in the hospital aimed at containing the spread of the virus. Thanks to Covid, gone are the days when family smothers one with love when hospitalized or people spending their last moments on earth surrounded by loved ones – but this is temporary and this too shall pass!

COVID 19 took over my FB posts/feeds, text, WhatsApp messages, emails as well as my phone calls. Every time I unlocked my phone, there it was – a new notification about COVID 19. I did finally manage to get COVID 19 out of my head as I watched a 3 hour long Indian movie and my phone was also completely out of sight. I felt an immense sense of peace and calmness after being in an imaginary world devoid of Corona for 3 hours. This virus has undoubtedly controlled every aspect of our thoughts and lives in the last few weeks and will continue to do so. However, I decided to take complete breaks from Corona for a few hours a day at least – by keeping my phone out of sight for periods of time so I’m not inundated with Covid news and notifications. Although exciting travel plans and meetups are on hold for now, I made a decision to spend time outdoors while avoiding crowds/maintaining social distancing, connect with others (virtually for now), set apart time to unwind and to focus on the facts only. But COVID 19 is not all bad. My sunrises/sunsets are grander, nature is more vibrant, time with family and friends is more precious. Learning to conserve gloves, cleaning supplies, PPE all of which I took for granted before this pandemic started has been an eye opening experience.

About Harsha Alexander MD

Member of San Francisco Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam & Young Family Fellowship