Call of Duty

How do we stay connected as humans beings as we retreat from our patients and from each other behind gloves and masks and face shields?

I have been pondering this.

Back in the day when I was doing inpatient medicine, if I knew someone was dying and there was no one to be there with them, I would go and hold their hand until it was over. The thought of dying alone is very upsetting to me personally. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want anyone else to be alone.

Hospitals right now are not allowing visitors at all. If your mom or dad or sister or husband gets admitted, no one can come in with them… they are alone.

We have made plans for COVID dedicated hospitals in the area. I am on the list to help out at one should the need arise so I have been brushing up on ventilator management. That part does not scare me. God knows when my time is up. I won’t be reckless. I just know that I could walk through a room full of coughing COVID patients without PPE and if it isn’t my time, it isn’t my time. But knowing that if we are overrun, I may not have the opportunity to linger at the bedsides of those on their way out really bothers me.

I wonder what all of this is going to do to us. What will the world be like in the other side, when the danger has passed? I don’t feel like a hero. It bothers me when people say that I am. This is my job. This is me being human. This is what we are called to do, to care for others. All of us has an opportunity to be a “hero” to someone right now. Whether it is giving food or money or emotional support to those who need it or caring for someone in a hospital bed. They ALL carry risks. It is easy to hide behind a door, a mask… to disappear.

Don’t disappear.


49 thoughts on “Call of Duty

  1. I shared this on my blog as well.
    I think we have been social distancing for a good while, since the advent of social media and texting, at least in an emotional manner. The virus has just brought a physical component to the phenomena which makes it seem more real than people would have thought it previously. The absence of touch brings to mind the presence of the emotional consequences of “social distancing” which has been lingering for years.
    texting and social media take away from us the ability to be emotionally vulnerable with each other, or I should say,we have allowed the technology to remove that very vulnerability, an aspect of ourselves that makes us more human to each other.for example, does texting “I love you” have the same impact on the human soul that it does if you hear the words spoken from that person?

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  2. Pingback: Call of Duty | the blind flight

  3. My dad (87) fell again yesterday at home. My sister and I talked about what would happen if he were to wind up in the hospital (again)/ he was in last Fall with a broken femur…the thought of him dying alone came up in our conversation…as of this morning he’s still at home/ doing OK.. like you alluded to, all of us can do things to things to encourage other people. Take care. DM

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  4. I think the realisation that scares us all the most is that we cannot, as a human race, make it through this pandemic so that we can all survive it. And that knowledge hurts, because we like to feel in control, however illusory that may be: We hate feeling helpless. Here in the UK, we are on a stay-at-home order wherever possible to stop spreading the virus in public places. And at 8pm every Thursday we all stand on our individual doorsteps and clap for everyone in our NHS to say a huge ‘thank you’ for everything they do to care for us all. It’s maybe not much in the grander scheme of things, but as a nation it is our way of doing something collectively to show how much we care for our carers. So next Thursday at 8pm I’ll be clapping for you too, and every other hospital worker across the globe who is currently on the front-line behind however much PPE – and I hope for an abundance of appropriate PPE for all of you. Please know we do see the vulnerable human being behind the scrubs, the mask, the gown, and we very much appreciate what you all do for us, whoever and wherever you are, whatever the risks ❤

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  5. You are called ‘hero’ because you are our beacon of hope in these muddy waters. We are all heroes to others who need us. It is a heavy burden we ask you to wear but we need hope that we will get through this.

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  6. Reblogged this on Cordelia's Mom, Still and commented:
    For those wondering where Victo has been. She’s alive and well and fighting for the health of others, as usual. “Don’t disappear.” – that applies to all of us. Everyone keep in touch so we know you’re safe. If you don’t want to post, or can’t at this time, maybe at least send an email to another blogger so we don’t worry. (Victo – thank you.)

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Victo – I wish you were here in my area. It would be comforting to know that should I, or a member of my family, wind up alone on a ventilator in ICU, someone like you would be there. I recently had to take a family member to ER on a non-COVID emergency, and it was upsetting that I was not allowed even into the outer waiting area to be with my loved one. We had to keep in touch by phone; fortunately, the ER visit did not turn into an admission and I was able to bring the patient back home after a few hours. And that was before the surge hit – at that time, the hospital had only one COVID inpatient; now there are many, and not enough medical staff or equipment. So scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You can only do so much and still protect yourself for the next one you are called on to help. No one who dies is really alone through it. We just don’t see who is there guiding them home. This is not yours to carry. The heroic part is that you keep going back to do more and more. Most of us won’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was thinking of you yesterday before I saw your post. First, thank you for your service and all the shop workers, farmers and essential workers. There is no handbook of how to deal with this since few of us were around in 1918. I think my maternal great grandparents died of Spanish Flu but the children survived. Compassion and resilience will get us through this inevitable pandemic. Perhaps it will reminds us that life is finite and we should value the importance of love. You are my friend, I appreciate you and be safe. K x

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  10. You are a hero by the fact that you care. We are trying too, to be caring, helping neighbours and friends 💜. I hope if the worst happens , and I hope it doesn’t that I or one of my loved ones has someone as wonderful and heroic as you to hold their or my hand . THANK YOU.💜💜

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  11. My brother last Tuesday had brain surgery and was totally alone through the process. The night before we all talked via phone, knowing there was a BIG chance we wouldn’t see each other again. But he made it through and now is again allowed phone calls. But no visitors. He will be in rehab for three weeks and it will be over a month before his wife can see him again. We are grateful for technology, but it does not replace holding a hand in a time of need.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jane.

      You are absolutely right. Physical touch is essential to our emotional well-being even if it’s holding someone’s hand or giving a hug during a crisis situation. There’s a certain assurance to the human spirit that is transmitted through touch that goes beyond words or the visualization of a smile over a video camera.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. “The thought of dying alone is very upsetting to me personally. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want anyone else to be alone.”

    My grandpa died while my mom was asleep. She was right next to his bedside, but so disturbed that he wasn’t conscious to notice her presence when he died. I said, dude, Mom, he didn’t ask for this and this and this and this and this and it would be okay; he said he didn’t want to be alone, and her presence ensured he was not. It didn’t matter if she was awake. She was there. He wasn’t alone. It was exactly as he wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My daddy and his baby brother grew up without either parent. Daddy was five and his younger brother was only eighteen months old when the Flu of 1918 took both their parents. Sure, they were alive, but tossed back and forth between relatives as long as they could work for them. I want to be here for my children and their children. I want to offer stability to the ones who need it the most. I’ll wear a mask or do whatever I need to to get through this.

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  14. I like this about you because I also think dying alone sounds awful. When I was very sick last week, I had terrible thoughts of dying alone in a hospital, attached to machines. Anxiety is real. Anyway, I’ve never had doctors who were warm or personable until last year, so it’s still a bit strange to me how human she seems… She’s younger than me as it is part of my plan that she outlive me so that I never have to get another doctor ever again. Maybe hero isn’t always the right word for healthcare workers, but in this case, it is. It’s noble and self-sacrificing, as many jobs are — but in this case, it’s truly perilous, requires courage — so I think the heroic tag applies.

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  15. Hey Dr. V. A good corollary to not disappearing is not being silent, as urged by the great Eli Wiesel. And no one should be silent about the horrendous management of this debacle, from the very top officials of government, to the profiteers (read government officials, unscrupulous contractors, etc.) to the preferential treatment of some states to the detriment of other, to the purposeful misleading of the public…. the list goes on. Thank goodness for the front line people like you, but you deserve the full support of those in charge of supplying appropriate resources.
    Stay safe!

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  16. Victo, I get why you say it’s just your ‘job.’ But these days, your calling/profession has been ramped up a notch; you’re now in greater *service* to humanity, because the health of a much greater number of individuals is suddenly in the hands of devoted medical professionals like you. I feel for everyone who has a relative in hospital, especially now: one of my closest and oldest friends, whose 92 year old mother moved into a residence a few months ago, was banned from visiting her 2 weeks ago; he sensed that the absence of their regular in-face visits and hugs would make her slide.. well it did, and she succumbed 3 nights ago. I am so grateful that your heart walks through those hospital hallways…

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  17. It also bothers me when people praise me for doing my job. I chose my job, and I’m just doing what it requires. But I suppose we shouldn’t downplay healthcare professions too much. There is a lot of stress (physical, mental and emotional stress) involved.

    The hospital that my pharmacy is in has also banned all visitors. It is a very lamentable state of affairs.

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  18. Having been in the Emergency Room twice, and hospitalized once, last month, for a heart condition, I know that feeling of loneliness when my wife wasn’t allowed to be there with me. But any human contact was appreciated, so I imagine your presence with patients makes a big difference with them.

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  19. Glad you’re doing what you’re doing. It feels to me like people aren’t people anymore, but I have this hunch coming out of this (one day) that we’ll feel together for the first time in a long time. I mean, we’ll learn something valuable here, right? Don’t we have to? When was the last time we as a human population were all in the same boat?

    In the meantime, stay well, Victo. Yes, it’s your job, but it has always been a heroic one, now moreso than ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. ‘Tis not merely the dutiful job you do that defines you Victo but rather the compassionate, selfless, and virtuous manner with which you serve others. By that fundamentally human measure you are graciously heroic and an inspiration to all.

    Would it were the incumbent leaders of our capitalist-driven world were blessed with such noble characters and empathetic natures as those who might share our final hour.

    What sort of world do I hope for post C-19? One that has become enlightened, unified, collaborative and cooperative, that has evolved to transcend individual and national egoism…that demonstrates altruism as the ethical foundation of morality: an equitable, prosperous, and sustainable world that turns on an axis of Love, Peace and Harmony rather than twisting it on an axis of illusory (fool’s) gold.

    An armour of Love will protect your heart, a mask, gloves, and face-shield will protect your health. Wrap up well Victo,

    Thank you for doing what you do.

    Namaste 🙏


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  21. I’d feel the same. As for how we’re going to be after this…. hopefully more compassionate than we are now – or rather, hopefully those who weren’t compassionate will become so. You already are.


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  22. Hopefully we will learn good things from this, rather than to distrust one another further. You may not feel like a hero but there is a lot of moral courage involved in what you are doing. And I feel exactly the same way as you do about other people dying alone.

    My Mum has dementia and lives 140 miles away so I can’t see her at the moment. I hope this passes quickly and as others have said, I hope those of us who need to learn some compassion from this.



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  23. I hadn’t really thought about this virus from a doctor’s perspective, but I do understand. Both my sons have had chronic health problems and our doctors become quite close to us – more like supporters and friends. It is hard to reach out to people when you are locked down at home but I am trying to do so using technology.

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  24. I also feel uncomfortable about being called a hero. When you try to thank a war veteran for their service, they usually say that they were just doing their duty. That’s how I feel about my work in the medical field. I signed up for this.

    But I do love connecting personally with the people I serve. That’s why I’d rather be a doctor than a soldier, I guess.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Hi Victoire. I was wondering about you the other day. After your come-back, no news. Then I saw your post in my mail. It’s good that you haven’t disappeared. All in due time.
    You’re not a hero. Neither are Daughter #1 and her husband, both MD’s as you may remember. And infectologists at that. But you three are doing your job. With great exposure. You will be attending patients. Saving lives. Or easing out their last moments. A priceless job.
    Now, though you know that it is a big lottery, and depends whether your time is up or not, do max up on precautions please…
    We don’t want you to disappear. You do mean a lot to your friends.
    So… stay safe Doc.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Now, after? A recurring thought. Two things will happen:
    1) Those who did their “job” and helped will be identified and we will be thankful. Those selfish bastards that abound will also be identified… As in all major human crisis. (This is a sort of WWIII)
    2) We will have to seriously think about how, we, the people, have surrendered our power to incompetent politicos the world over. And I really mean “worldwide”. We need to re-think the way our societies work. A vast programme… 🙂 Be good (and safe) my friend.
    (Good to have you back)

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I watched an excellent excoriation of the term “hero.” It fully fleshed out my thoughts on it because it’s just another example of how we use language to justify sacrificing people with no qualms. We’ve done our part by recognizing their “heroism,” but we’ve done nothing. The fact that there are people on the sacrificial altar is the problem.

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  28. I think even though you’re opposed to the term “hero,” you may not realize that even prior to the pandemic, you were among a different, special class of physicians… the ones who really care. Unfortunately, there are too many who at least put off the vibe that they don’t care about patients, don’t have time to listen, and aren’t interested in getting to the bottom of what the problem is. I do understand that much of this has to do with insurance, politics, clinic policy, etc. But regardless of the reason, for me anyway, it’s a real treat when I find a doctor who actually seems to care. So, in respecting your wishes, I won’t call you the “H word, but I will say Thank You for all you are doing. ❤️

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