In Your Own Words: Suzanne McGee, M.D.

KMA is sharing the first-person accounts of physicians from across the state as they prepare for and battle the COVID-19 pandemic. These stories will also be published at kyma.org/covid19. If you are interested in submitting an account, please email Emily Schott, schott@kyma.org

KMA spoke to Suzanne McGee, M.D., UofL Physicians Emergency Medicine, regarding her experience.

Finding the “Bright Spots” in Pandemic Times

Several months ago, on a red-eye flight home, I was reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz, a heart-wrenching and illuminating book about Lale Sokolov, a courageous young Jewish man who was a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp. His job was to mark all prisoners as they entered Auschwitz, an unimaginable task. Despite the unthinkable human suffering that Lale witnessed and endured, he had the uncanny ability to recognize the “bright spots” from his experiences. His resilience in an unconscionable situation really moved and stuck with me.

As I face this COVID-19 pandemic, I often think of Lale’s reactions to adversity. From him, I learned that it is perfectly acceptable to be angry, fearful, and anxious about a bad situation, but that it is also vital to maintain a positive attitude and seek out the bright spots. One of the odd realities about this virus and pandemic is that it is full of juxtapositions, just as Lale’s journey was. Even the name of the virus is alluring, derived from the Latin word corona, meaning “crown.” But, how could something that sounds so majestic be so dreadful?

This pandemic has many Kentucky physicians feeling as if we are about to be swallowed by a massive wave; after all, we have seen the damage that COVID-19 has done in other states and countries. Personally, I dislike the uncertainty of this pandemic and worry about the physical and mental health of my colleagues, patients, loved ones, and frankly, all of humanity. However, despite the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, I see an amazing resolve among healthcare workers to kick this virus in the derrière and keep staff and patients safe. I see a simplicity in day to day life that, amidst the ugliness of this pandemic, is refreshing. I have undeniably watched the goodness of humanity emerge as people recognize their kinship with one another—a recognition that we are in this together. As a physician, I choose to fight this virus, and I will continue to recognize bright spots as I do it. I hope you will consider doing the same.