Hesham A Hassaballa's COLUMN

Sisters And Brothers On The Front Lines

An open letter to my sisters and brothers on the front lines: those of us still fighting the good fight against COVID-19.

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There is nothing I can say. I don’t have to. We can see it in our eyes: the exhaustion; the exasperation; the fatigue; the anger; the anguish at the senselessness of the death all around us. We are done with this virus. The problem is, unfortunately, the virus is not yet done with us.

In the very beginning, I must admit, there was a small bit of a thrill inside me: “I’m joining the war against SARS CoV-2…I’m part of the fight in this global pandemic.” People all across the world stood up to thank us, whether banging pots and pans from their windows, or sending us cards, posters, and treats. While we are not in it for the praise, the praise was nice nonetheless.

Almost two years into this pandemic, I must say that thrill is gone.

In my entire career, I have never experienced the scale of death and destruction by one condition. I was in practice during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic; I have worked many bad influenza seasons. All of those pale in comparison to the SARS CoV-2 pandemic. It has been horrific.

There are scenes in my head that can never be unseen. Patient after patient after patient has died – many times alone in the ICU with their families screaming in anguish on an iPad. We are exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

We had thought that, with the advent of vaccines, it would be the beginning of the end. Indeed, tens of millions of us have gotten vaccinated, and in the beginning of the summer of 2021, it seemed like it was over.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa

But there were also tens of millions of us who didn’t want to get vaccinated, even though the vaccines are incredibly safe, incredibly effective, widely available, and free of charge to boot. And when Delta hit our shores, the anguish started all over again.

Hospitals and ICUs were, once again, overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Once again, tents were erected outside of Emergency Rooms. Once again, resources were running thin. In one of my hospitals, we came dangerously close to running out of ventilators. In some parts of our country, fellow colleagues had to choose which patient would live or die. I never though it would be like this – again – in the summer of 2021. But, it was, and we are exhausted.

And now, way more than before, the patients coming in with COVID-19 – the overwhelming majority of whom are not vaccinated – are younger. And, they are dying.

What’s more, many of them are angry and belligerent towards us. What did we do? Why are you taking our your frustrations out on us? We are angry, too, but we would never take it out on our patients, who come to us seeking our help to relieve their suffering. It’s been a terrible road, and we are exhausted.

And, like I said, the virus is not yet done with us. I genuinely fear this winter, where we may very well have “Revenge of the Flu” along with a steady stream of new COVID-19 patients. It may very well get worse before it gets better. But, we don’t have much left to give. We are done with this virus, and we are exhausted.

And so, as we soldier on, all I can say is, “Thank You.”

From the very bottom of my heart and soul, I say “Thank You.” Thank you, my sisters and brothers on the front lines, for all you have done. Thank you, my sisters and brothers, for your fatigue. Thank you, my sisters and brothers, for your exhaustion. Thank you, my sisters and brothers, for your exasperation.

This pandemic has tested us to our very cores, and I pray that we will come out of it much better caregivers and much better people, our emotional scars notwithstanding.

If I said “Thank You,” my sisters and brothers, for eternity it would not be enough. But still, let me say, one more time, “Thank You.” You are all so special to me, and you will always be in my heart and my prayers.

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Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballahttp://drhassaballa.com
Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa is a NY Times featured Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine specialist in clinical practice for over 20 years. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, and Sleep Medicine. He is a prolific writer, with dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles and medical blog posts. He is a Physician Leader and published author. His latest book is "Code Blue," a medical thriller.

1 COMMENT

  1. As a chaplain at the same hospital as Dr. Hassaballa I can only say THANK YOU to him. I have been honored to be involved with him with patients and their families.

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DR HESHAM A HASSABLLA

Medika Editor: Cardio and Pulmonary

Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa is a NY Times featured Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine specialist in clinical practice for over 20 years. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, and Sleep Medicine.

He is a prolific writer, with dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles and medical blog posts. He is a Physician Leader and published author. His latest book is "Code Blue," a medical thriller.

Medika are also thrilled to announce Hesham has recently joined our team as an Editor for BeingWell, Medika's publication on Medium

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