It’s never been easy being an ICU doctor. I mean, the hours have always been long, and being responsible for someone else’s life has never stopped being hard. But then you get used to it, you know— decisions are still hard but there are precedents to base them on, the hours are still long but you always get a satisfyingly compensating amount of time off after— these things get a little easier after a while.
But I haven’t been home for 45 days.
It’s different with COVID-19, when the rate of infection is so high, and the number of patients are spinning out of control, and when you’re exposed to the most infected areas. Of course, doctors are required to wear protective clothes (think of it like a full-body raincoat) and appropriate procedures, but there’s absolutely no way to ensure that we won’t catch the virus. We can’t risk going home, because if we do, we’re compromising the safety of our own family. We can’t risk going outside and getting a coffee, because if we do, we’re compromising the safety of this entire community. It’s hard adapting to a life where all you see are patients and a selected number of colleagues, but I think it has something to do with the doctors' code of morals: we just want to keep everyone safe.
I’ve been facetiming my kids at home twice every day. Being an ICU doctor means I was never able to be a dedicated family man, but now my wife has to take care of 3 young kids, who are not going to school, all on her own. I love her and I’m thankful to her everyday for being the home I could always return to.
Things are getting easier around here, and quarantine was just lifted a few days back. I’ll be going home in a couple of days with an experience no one has ever had before. I want those who are still, and have been, deeply affected by COVID-19 to know that it will get better, and that it can get better. Take precautions, hope and pray for a better tomorrow, and as doctors, we’ll always be here, ready to serve and to protect.
Written by: Cam Nguyen