In mid-January 2020 I first heard about COVID-19. At first, it came across as yet another respiratory viral disease that had moderately higher infectivity compared with previous viruses. I never imagined that it was just the beginning of what would become a pandemic and that later case numbers would be staggering and overwhelming. COVID-19 has taken a toll not only on patients but also on healthcare systems, their workers, and the economy.
Sooner than I could comprehend the full extent of the damage, I found myself engulfed in the midst of this pandemic. It now feels like Game of Thrones, where the great battle has begun. I echo the sentiments of series character John Snow about getting all the houses together and asking for help irrespective of differences, trying to highlight his point that “the only war that matters now is the war for survival.” The major difference here is that we are fighting an invisible enemy. The only weapon we have is hope and a belief that despite everything, humanity will prevail.
The world is watching and looks up to us as healthcare workers during this pandemic, and I believe this is a time when we as a community can grow stronger. Years of medical school, residency, and fellowship have cultivated our art of listening and delivering news to our patients, acting in their best interest, and always advocating for their wishes.
As a member of the medical fraternity, I am humbled to see that despite the stress and anxiety, healthcare professionals are valuing each other as never before. They are pitching in and helping out in any way possible. A hospitalist friend in New York City told me his team includes himself, an orthopedic attending, and two psychiatric residents, each of whom manages the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Never before in medicine have I seen such unification of disparate fields and such abandonment of existing hierarchies.
What can we do as nephrologists? We need to remind our patients and families to have hope and stay positive, and we need to educate and update them as new information becomes available. We can help patients broaden their understanding of COVID-19 and be extra considerate in addressing the smallest of their doubts. We can discuss ways to minimize contact. And we need to keep in mind that our dialysis nurses and technicians do not have the luxury of minimizing contact and are equally involved in this war, if not more so. The least we can do is to be overwhelmingly appreciative of their work.