The Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health is featuring a series of blogs written by students who are isolating at home during the Coronavirus pandemic. These are a few of their stories:
Before medical school started, I had dedicated my last free summer to reading as many books as I could. In making a reading list, I stumbled upon a book called “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” by David Quammen. I was fascinated by the stories Quammen weaved about how different zoonotic diseases popped up throughout the world and how they were so difficult to treat. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, these tales of Ebola, avian influenza, Lyme disease, and especially SARS seem less exciting and more spine-chilling. A phrase that’s been ringing in my mind since the WHO declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, was virologists stating that “humankind has had a lucky escape” when it came to SARS in 2003.
Even though it seems absurd to call SARS (a disease that infected 8,000 and killed 774) “lucky”, it seems like we did not realize how horrific it could get. Throughout this tragedy, I have felt grieve, anger, disillusionment, and hope to varying degrees. Part of me cannot believe how an infinitesimally small sack of nucleic acids managed to infect every corner of our society, exposing the flaws with the healthcare system, the economy, and racial inequities. The other part of me is unsurprised, due to the holes I had begun to see during my medical education. But, I remain hopeful for the future. Scientific and medical communities have been mobilizing and collaborating like nothing seen before. I have full confidence that we, as the scientific and medical communities, can reduce the pain and death from this pandemic and for this, I feel lucky.
Physical Therapy Student
Some days I feel as if I’m watering a plant made of plastic. I have given my entire being to a degree that is just that, a thing, that is never able to reciprocate the emotions I have shed for it. I have given up my dreams for a specialty in the wake of this pandemic. Will I one day be able to return to these dreams? Quite possibly, but it will never be the same. It’s going to be immeasurably different, but different does not mean bad. In the interim I can only remind myself of my passions and learn to look at life differently. I hope to one day look back and smile for having doubted my own resiliency in this time.
Anonymous Medical Student
When I imagined what I would be doing if the world around me was to be turned upside down because of a disease, an infectious disease nonetheless, I imagined that I would be somewhere giving all I can to the world. I am a medical student, this is what I am signing up for. But when the pleas for help came out, asking for babysitters, calling for people to deliver food to those in need, asking for people to sew masks, I was nowhere to be found.
The truth is, as the global situation gets worse, I am learning that I am not as selfless as I thought, not as brave as I imagined. And that makes me sad. I am scared of what that means about me. Will I always put my own needs before my patients? Will I be compassionate enough when I am finally a physician whom people will trust with their lives? Should anyone ever trust me with their lives? When the world was falling around me, I was on the couch making yet another excuse why I am not suited to help. And I am ashamed of myself. And the sad thing is, I still can’t bring myself to respond to an email offering my help. I feel like a fraud.