You may have seen the viral video going around on social media of my two daughters crying as I left my house earlier last week. My wife shared it on Facebook, and within a few days it had thousands of views, and various news media reached out to us for interviews. What we thought would be a simple reminder to our community of the sacrifices healthcare workers are making during this coronavirus pandemic turned out to be a viral social media sensation.
What the video doesn’t show is what led up to that emotional exit. Just before the video was recorded, my family and I were having dinner together at our house. Instead of our usual dinner routine, I was sitting on our front porch while my wife and kids were inside our dining room with the windows open so we could share conversation about our day.
Early on, my wife and I decided that once the coronavirus numbers started picking up in our community, I would move out in order to minimize the exposure risk to her and our kids. I would visit each evening but keep adequate distance and wear a mask around the family. At the time of the video, I was staying in a local hotel. Fortunately, we will soon have other arrangements thanks to the generosity of some nearby friends.
The feedback we have received has largely been positive, but I have received some questions of concern, mainly from other healthcare providers. “Why are you isolating yourself if you haven’t experienced a known exposure?” “Why do you feel you should wear a mask?” “Why did you choose an N-95 mask?”
All of these are valid questions. All I can say is my wife and I made a shared decision for me to limit my exposure to our family. I know a few other physicians with frequent coronavirus exposure who have done the same. Others have picked a separate part of their house in which to stay. I don’t wear a mask out in public, but I do wear one around my kids. I wore an N-95 mask in the video because it was the only mask I had available. Previously, I had ordered a few online for my personal use, but I do think a surgical mask would have sufficed. This was entirely a family decision and was not guided by any organizational guidelines or policies.
I salute the other hospitalists across the country who are making similar sacrifices. In my opinion, never in the history of the hospitalist movement has our presence been more valuable. At a time when the risks to healthcare workers are the greatest, we’re at the patient’s bedside dressed head to toe in PPE, putting our patient’s well-being over our own. Never before have I seen the degree of teamwork and comradery that I see now in the hospital – between hospitalists, other physicians, nurses and everyone else involved in patient care. This is truly a monumental time in history and in healthcare. One day we will tell stories to young physicians of what it was like serving on the frontline during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Until then, stay strong and support one another knowing the personal sacrifices we all are making.