Posted April 15, 2020
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The weekend of March 15th, 2020, I will not forget it. Maybe it was the conversation on the Facebook Louisville Lady Doc group or maybe it was the realization of what was happening in Italy hitting all at once. The world had changed. Things would not be the same.
That following week was a roller coaster as an outpatient physician. No more handshakes and having routine conversations about physicals, preventative care, and hypertension. On Wednesday, March 18th, I saw a lady for “sore throat, chills, lethargy.” She said her symptoms started 3 days ago. She was having chills at night and coughing. My patient is typically very well dressed with jewelry to match her beautiful clothes. The part of her story that struck me: “I got winded getting dressed for today’s appointment. I had to sit down and collect myself before I came to see you.” That did not fit. This was not a typical sinus infection. This was not bronchitis. This was something different. My voice quivered, “I think you have it.”
I spent the next 15 minutes shaking while putting together a plan for my patient and instructions for isolation. The worst feeling of helplessness for an internist is being unable to offer a definitive treatment for a patient. That’s how I felt. I was throwing things at her and hoping something would stick. I went back to talk to her about a plan and answered her questions. Her final question to me, “Am I your first?” My eyes gave me away, “Yes ma’am.” I knew she would not be my last. I went home that day and cried. I just hoped I could do the best for her to manage at home so she would not have to go to the hospital. I continue to carry that same hope for my patients who are suffering from COVID-19.