Artist: Hannah Jester, R.N.
Facing changes and the unexpected with the pandemic, many remain paralyzed with inactivity. However, humans are resilient. What kind of life will exist when this pandemic is finally “over?” How do we define “over?” Just like a pregnancy, its end is just the beginning.
As we get ready to publish the 9th issue of Physician Outlook I can’t help but ruminate about the similarities between the last 9 months of this pandemic and an unexpected, unplanned, perhaps even unwanted pregnancy.
For our family, the “estimated date of conception” was early-mid March of 2020. Forgetting science, I carelessly and recklessly threw caution to the wind as a parent and physician and gave my blessing for our daughter to travel abroad with friends on her spring break. Like unprotected, wanton sex, travel during an early pandemic had unintended but predictable consequences.
She came home with wonderful memories and tales of fun but was also one of the first in our state and on the east coast of the United States to be definitively diagnosed with COVID-19. It was a lesson learned, and one which we will not soon forget.
As I approach 36 weeks post her diagnosis and recovery, I am more than ready to push past this stage of the pandemic and into the next phase of life. But what kind of life will exist when this pandemic is finally “over?” How do we define “over?” Just like a pregnancy, its end is just the beginning.
Will this COVID-created imprisonment last another 2 years, as depicted on this month’s Physician Outlook cover?
The artist, Dr. Akop Jack Seksenyan, depicts a curious caduceus-wielding toddler following a larger-than-life coronavirus as it “goes towards the light.” The boy is alone, but well-groomed, wearing shoes and dressed in clean pants and a jacket. The scene is eerie and lonely, however. I can’t help but wonder where his parents are, who were the most likely creators of the large red chalkboard coronavirus on the brick wall. Have they succumbed to COVID-19, sacrificing their lives for the next little progeny who is armed with the future of medicine as his only weapon?
All of humanity unknowingly became impregnated with a virus that firmly implanted itself into our matrices, changing our lives forever in 2020. As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, we now wonder how many years it will take for life to feel “normal” again. Globally humans have individually experienced the first ¾ of 2020 differently, but collectively we can look back at the last 9 months and know that our future looks very different.
Some of us have experienced relatively uncomplicated pandemics, and have accepted all of the attendant changes in stride. Much like the gravid woman accepts that her body will inevitably change, the great majority of us have adopted mask-wearing, social distancing, home-schooling, and telecommuting as temporary but necessary intrusions into our lives. It may not be “normal” but we accept and trust that humans are resilient and that eventually, this pandemic has to come to an end.
Others of us throughout the world have experienced very complicated, high-risk pandemics with frequent hospitalizations, loss of life, debilitating residual COVID-related fatigue, and organ failure. Many remain paralyzed with inactivity and swaddled in fear of the unknown.
So much has been politicized during the coronavirus pandemic that I am looking forward to fast-forwarding past the upcoming November U.S. election. Regardless of the outcome of the election there will be some peace in finally knowing what to expect politically for the next 4 years, when so much about the virus has left us in limbo. This pandemic has produced the kind of anxiety families experience when an obstetrician diagnoses a developing fetus with a chromosomal anomaly.
If November 4th, 2020 brings full effacement and dilation that ultimately culminates in a “delivery” and an eventual end to the pandemic, I for one, will breathe a sigh of relief - not unlike the one that a laboring mother lets out when that crying baby--”normal” or “not” is finally laid on her bosom.