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Vulnerability, Compassion, Gratitude

March to April, 2020 in Toronto, Canada

I'm an emergency doctor at the University Health Network. Our hospital changed overnight with the Covid-19 pandemic. I remember when there was only one Covid case in all of Canada. My friend, an emergency nurse, triaged that patient. Now Canada has over 51000 cases and almost 3000 deaths.

As those long early days in March stretched into weeks and now months, our hospital waited for the surge of sick patients to arrive. Would we be like Italy--overwhelmed? Or like New York City--where healthcare workers use bandanas instead of proper personal protective equipment?

We prepared. We didn't sleep well. We skipped meals. We read everything we could find about Covid. We practised simulation drills and restructured the department. We said no more visitors were allowed in the hospital. We worried for our patients. We wondered if someone amongst us would die. We wondered if we could safely kiss our children after a busy shift.

So many questions.

And yet, we are here now in the first wave of the pandemic. Sick people come in with fever and cough. That's common. Everywhere, every room is contact and droplet precautions. But many more patients come after waiting too long at home. They come in with broken hips from a fall two weeks ago or heart failure from the heart attack they tried to ignore. Canadians have made huge sacrifices by staying at home. Though our face shields and goggles hide our expressions and muffle our voices, we are here to care for the sickest and the most vulnerable.

This is our story.

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