Aysha Malik MD
University at Buffalo School of Medicine, Internal Medicine-Pediatrics PGY2
May 13, 2020
Amherst, New York
Being a Med-Peds resident, I rotate between the worlds of adult medicine and pediatric medicine every three months. When the pandemic began, I was on the pediatrics side, and was hearing and reading reports about how children were less affected by COVID-19, and did not suffer morbidity and mortality to the degree that their adult counterparts were facing. Despite this, we tested several patients with concerning symptoms, and wore our N95s, yellow gowns, eye shields, and gloves when we went to examine them; taking all the necessary precautions. I’ve worn protective gear before, but this time, it was different. A plethora of mixed emotions ran through my mind when donning the PPE, including fear. It was strange having to write your name on a sheet of paper before entering the patient’s room so that they could track you down if the patient’s test did return positive. It felt surreal. However, as soon as I entered the patient’s room, those feelings disappeared, and confidence and sympathy overtook the fear; it became one of those ominous moments when you realize your purpose, the beauty of medicine, and the reward of taking care of others.
I first witnessed the toll this pandemic was having on patients, families, and healthcare workers while I was working in the neonatal ICU. A 34 –week-old male was born via an emergent C-section in an ICU, where his mother was admitted on a ventilator, battling COVID-19. She had no idea that she was being operated on, and did not have a chance to see or hold her baby. The child was immediately transported to our ICU and kept in isolation while his COVID-19 test was run. His father was not allowed to visit his wife or newborn son, for fear that he could catch the virus. I was called by the nurse the night the patient was admitted saying that dad had arrived for the first time to see his baby. I walked over and saw dad standing outside the patient’s room, one hand pressed against the glass. I paused for a second, took a deep breath, and introduced myself. I went over how the patient was doing, and that our hope was to have the viral testing back the next day. Dad was concerned about feeding his little one. Prior to her decline, his wife had emphasized how important it was for her to breastfeed, and if there was any way we could pump some milk and give it to baby. I discussed how the baby’s nutrition was of utmost importance, and although breast milk would be ideal, we would need to weigh the risks and benefits, and the implications pumping could have on mom while she was intubated and admitted in the ICU.
“I’m sure she would understand,” I said. I couldn’t see dad’s smile through his mask, but I picked up on the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes as he smirked “Oh you don’t know her,” he joked. I smiled and replied, “She’s pretty strong-willed, huh?” Dad paused, with tears filling his tired eyes, he turned to his newborn and said, “yes she is.”