Hesham A Hassaballa's COLUMN

The Silver Lining of Our Moral Distress with Covid

We are so tired of this…but we also still care

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Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

That is what it feels like taking care of Covid-19 patients for almost a year now. It is the same thing: they get sick, they come to the hospital, they get worse, they come to the ICU, they go on a ventilator, they stay on a ventilator for weeks, and then they die.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Sure, we have had some successes. But they are very few and very far in between. I think I can count on one hand the number of patients who actually made it alive and well after critical illness due to COVID-19.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It’s gotten very old, the death. It’s gotten very old, the destruction. It’s gotten very old, the terrible suffering we see our patients going through.

We are tired, nay, exhausted. It is tiring to see patient after patient die a miserable death. We are so ready for this pandemic to be over, but with the slow rollout of the vaccine, the hesitancy of a substantial portion of the population (including healthcare professionals) to get the vaccine, and now these worrying SARS CoV-2 variants, Covid is going to be with us for a long time.

That is depressing, because we know that this will mean more death, more destruction, and more suffering on the part of our patients. It seems that it will be a while yet before the cycle of “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” will finally go away. Very depressing, indeed.

It’s gotten very old, the death. It’s gotten very old, the destruction. It’s gotten very old, the terrible suffering we see our patients going through.

Yet, in this distress, in this fatigue and anguish, there is a silver lining. It means that we still care, we still have a heart that is filled with compassion.

If we really didn’t care about the suffering of our patients, then why would the scale of death and destruction bother us? If our patients were nothing more than carcasses to us, why would seeing so much suffering gnaw at our very souls? If we didn’t care at all, we would be totally fine with the pain all around us.

But, we do still care. We still have a heart that aches in pain for our patients and their families. Our hearts have not been hardened and ossified completely to the point of no return. That is very reassuring, and it brings me a modicum of peace and light in the overwhelming darkness of this pandemic.

Now, I do not make light of the moral distress that has been brought to bear on clinicians the world over. For far too many, this moral distress has hardened hearts and led to burnout. It has also led to many suicides among physicians and other clinicians. This is horrible, and we need to do all we can to help treat the moral distress which plagues far too many of those in our field.

That said, as much as I am growing tired of this pandemic and the ceaseless “Lather. Rinse. Repeat” cycle of death and destruction, there is a small part of me that is relieved. This is because it means that I still have a heart that is full of compassion and care. And I thank the Beautiful Lord for that.

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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.

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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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