Confessions of a NYC Surgeon : Reflections on Working During the COVID-19 Outbreak

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Confessions of a NYC Surgeon : Reflections on Working During the COVID-19 Outbreak

by Anonymous MD

March through May 2020

I came home to tears and frustration as a broken relationship exposed its wounds, unable to heal due to the tremendous chasm that existed between us. The daily hospital routines, which were usually my hideaway from failed relationships, had been disrupted by C- and the only solace and distraction I found was a cynical plastics intern who shared my frustration at the comical unfairness of world wide pandemic during intern year. Death, a common but unwelcome guest in the hospital halls, seemed omnipresent now, overstaying his necessary visit and appearing in areas he was rarely seen and usually ushered out of. As the apprehensive days of March turned into dreadful ones in April and May, what was once terrifying became a tired, dull ache, like a long bus ride. I dreaded the calls for chest tube placements and tracheostomies from overzealous medicine residents. I dreaded the constant mortality updates. I dreaded the constant changing of treatments. Don’t all these people know that staving off death for a month did nothing for a patient’s soul? Most nights I felt too defeated to fight or shower and had dreams that I could never remember of my C-covered clothes smothering me.

The mundanity of a closed city made me rethink my intra-hospital conquests as I replayed the events in my mind, subconsciously opening myself up for possibilities. A young-ish PA seemed interested, so I focused my efforts and was able to escape long enough to chip away at the barriers between two people before they became intimate. After a few weeks of wine-fueled fondling, the pursuit of more meaningful contact seemed long and it stopped, not from loss of interest but from a lack of enthusiasm. In the midst of all this, the wound was amputated and I was once again single. I began to see a glimmer of hope not in the slowing of the daily pandemic grind, but in the warming of spring and the beginning of summer. We had now heard that cases peaked and leveled off in Europe and I knew that we were just a few weeks behind. I started to see people venturing out into the streets like curious animals being let out of their cages. I began to frequent Central Park where small groups of people sat in circles and drank their alcohol, smiling and laughing with overjoyed expressions on their faces. And I have to admit, I was overjoyed as well. The clock seemed to stop ticking and there was a sense that most daily tasks, stressors, and priorities had become secondary. I was not dead, I was not sick, and I had a job. Work continued and I began to examine my dark haired ever-smiling intern more closely and invited her for a drink. There was a hesitant attraction that was mutual, but too awkward to amount to anything more than a forced proximity that led to nothing. She was attractive enough, as was I, but quite possibly my guilt held me back as I actually thought she was actually funny and deep down I intended nothing.

My brother worked remotely from home and was incredibly supportive. He bought cans and cans of tuna and horrible pre-cooked sausage like a twelve-year-old left at home alone for the first time. He was much more frightened of the situation than I ever was and peppered me with daily questions about going outside the house, what face mask to use, and what was considered a safe grocery store time to shop. I entertained his questions but deep down inside I felt like it was always destined who would get “it” and who wouldn’t, and that he wouldn’t because of his innocence. I called home almost daily because I enjoyed the hero’s welcome and words of praise and would pretend to be more frightened than I actually ever was. I shared memes and drank the words of encouragement like they were actually sustaining me, all the while I still got drunk and ate and schemed like everyone else. Periodically, the previous one would call and cry and I would answer and talk. These conversations were considerably painful and I would close my door, roll my eyes, and try to end them as soon as I could. I felt the slap of hot guilt at having cut someone off so coldly that they thought I was a man possessed. I blamed every external and internal factor I could, settling on a DSM II personality disorder that I swore I would get therapy for. She actually cared. I even talked myself into googling a virtual meeting with a therapist that ended with me looking at Amazon cases for my new laptop that I never ordered. 

Submitted by Anonymous January 2023

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