Blog Global Health Center COVID-19 Infectious Disease

Personal reflections on COVID-19 decoded

Written by Jeanie Bryant, coordinator for the Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health

As an older adult and a woman, I understand how leadership decisions impact those most vulnerable to COVID-19. I volunteer at a food pantry, whose clients include the homeless. In addition to hunger, we are now responding to requests for tents to help alleviate the suffering in tent encampments in St. Louis City.

After listening to the webinar presenters, I have a better understanding of the realities of global health and the world we are all trying to navigate so gracefully.

A walking garden: hope in a time of chaos

One of the panelists, Dr. Tsion Firew, is a doctor in the ER at Columbia University Medical Center. She also serves as an advisor to the Minister of Health on Emergency Care and Strategic Partnership, Ethiopia. She responded to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti and recently in Mosul Iraq during the war against ISIS.

Here is her reality. One month ago, Columbia University Medical Center had one case of COVID-19. On, April 2 at 9:30 am, there were 45,000 cases in New York City. Dr. Firew described her experience as mind blowing. A war zone. She thought with the first few cases, the virus would be contained, but she now knows that the worst is yet to come. The very difficult discussions with family members and the decisions over which patients with multiple conditions will receive a ventilator are something she never planned for. Watching her colleagues behind heavy goggles and searching for a face that she might recognize is, again, something she never thought she would see in America.

After her shift at the end of the day, she walks home and tries to reflect on the day. Her biggest fear is what will happen if the disease gets a start in Ethiopia and Africa and how these countries might fight the disease with limited resources.

On my walks, around my neighborhood, I think about hope. Hope that a vaccine will be developed. Hope that my children will survive. Hope that the disproportionate percentage of women working in health care and grocery stores will one day return home feeling safe and secure.