Diary of a Family Physician
Am Fam Physician. 2020 Oct 15;102(8):460.
Tears welled from my eyes thinking about a patient who died this morning from COVID-19. She died alone in a busy hospital, despite her husband's plea to visit her. I have 25 patients with presumed COVID-19 on my schedule, so I collected myself and picked up my stethoscope.
At the respiratory clinic, I noticed an oxygen tank set up. My eyes followed the clear vinyl tubing to a woman sitting in a tripod position. She presented with 10 days of fever and a worsening cough. Her room air saturation was 89%. The patient was refusing to go to the hospital because she feared she would die there. I feared it too.
I grabbed a handful of almonds for lunch just as I received a notification on my phone – “Notice of patient death.” How do I tell my team that five of our patients died in the past 72 hours? I am currently the only physician at my community health center who can sign a death certificate online, so I need to do this quickly. Families should not have to worry about administrative forms while grieving. It's one of the last acts of kindness I can do for my patient.
A patient is angry that she can't see her doctor in person. She lectures me through the phone, “If doctors are so afraid of catching COVID-19, they should not have become doctors.”
I received an email from my sister, who is an internist in New York City. Her husband is a pulmonologist, and they have three children under the age of nine. She wrote, “If something happens to us, it has to be [you] who take the kids.”
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This series is coordinated by Sumi Sexton, MD, editor-in-chief.
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