The surge of the delta variant of the novel Coronavirus is upon us. Normally summertime conjures up images of vacations and sunshine and barbecues with loved ones. Everyone’s eyes are usually bright and brimming with excitement. Unfortunately, we are seventeen months into the Covid-19 pandemic and it feels exactly like we were back in March 2020.
I have gone through all the stages of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ model of grief in 2020. And again in 2021.
Denial: This isn’t happening. It’s not that bad and it will get better soon.
Bargaining: If everyone wears a mask, we can overcome this together. I’ll wear my mask for you and you wear your mask for me.
Depression: What’s the point anymore? Can I just stay in bed all day?
Acceptance: I will wear a mask every flu season for the rest of my life.
The stage that I find myself at right now is Anger.
I am certainly not perfect, but my family and I eliminated all travel and holiday gatherings last year. We wear our masks everywhere. We got vaccinated. I can count on one hand the number of times we have met up with friends in a socially distanced manner. My hands are cracked and scaling from the copious amounts of handwashing and hand sanitizing. Just when it finally began to feel like we were making headway with Covid-19 numbers and dared to start venturing out, we are now faced with a virus more contagious than last year.
Somehow I wrongfully assumed that everyone cared about beating the pandemic. How naive of me. The calls are coming in. Sore throat, body aches, sniffles, fatigue, cough. Most people chose not to get vaccinated.
I have missed birthdays. I have missed anniversaries, including my own. I have worked countless additional shifts. Was all the sacrifice fruitless?
The delta surge is here and worse than the first.
I find it challenging not to be ANGRY that people still think this is a joke. I find it challenging not to be ANGRY that people are not heeding the advice of epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists. I find it challenging not to be ANGRY at the utter failure of the handling of this pandemic at a government level. Everyone thinks they are the exception. It is hard not to be ANGRY at the bad decisions made by people who choose to ignore the warnings and endanger the people around them. Does anyone acknowledge that every choice they make bears consequences?
My hospital is filling back up. The majority of our Covid-19 cases are unvaccinated. The backup teams have been put on standby. We all have worked beyond our contracted duties to try to get through the backlog and now the surge.
I took an oath, yes, but how long can I last? How long can any physician last working back-to-back blocks and multiple weekends per month staring death in the face multiple times per day and calling family members with bad news?
I cannot recall a more divisive time in my lifetime. With so much misinformation available on the Internet, it is easy to choose the side that resonates and find the evidence to support alleged views. I am not old enough to have lived through the Civil War, suffrage, or the Vietnam War. These were considered divisive times. Ironic that the division now is between choosing to believe that the current “enemy,” a mere sixty to one hundred nanometers in size, invisible to the naked eye, is real or not despite 618,000 Americans dead. The vaccines have been rolled out and demonstrated to be safe, and the current division is still whether to vaccinate or not.
As for me, I witnessed firsthand the havoc caused by the novel Coronavirus, not just the acute illness but the post-Covid long haul symptoms too. I assure you it is real. I survived life without measles and polio, and I am grateful to be vaccinated.
The experience of this pandemic will ever-so-vividly remain etched in my memory for the rest of my life. It will be interesting to see what historians have to say about this time in one hundred years. I hope we can all unite for the common good and turn this history around.
#IGotVaccinated #ImVaccinated #CovidVaccine #VaccinesWork #VaccinesSaveLives #CancelCovid #HealingStartsHere #Coronavirus #Covid19
Uzma Khan, MD, is a practicing Internist and a Women in White Coats writer’s fellow. She blogs about medicine, money and life at http://www.meandmystethoscope.com/, and she can be found on Facebook Uzma Khan, MD, Instagram @uzmakhanmd and Twitter @uzmakhanmd
You are right to be angry. I am glad to see more physicians speak out . We should all do so!
As an anesthesiologist, a mom an a member of the human race I acknowledge and absolutely understand your thoughts. I have them often.
We should not be just angry but resentful. We resent the people who exercise their right to healthcare without taking a basic precaution. We resent the loss of our resources – ICU and medical beds, nurses, hospital staffers and our colleagues to burn-out from this unnecessary surge. And we resent having to live with the memory of all the patients whom we could not save.
I’m an ER doc. We are having the exact same experience as you. Surge upon surge upon surge. Nurses crying literally every day out of frustration and burnout. I am FURIOUS. However, I find if I very calmly talk to patients individually and try to hear them out, to field their concerns, that sometimes…only sometimes…I can convince them to get the vaccine. And I delude myself that the ones I don’t convince have still heard my calm logic and reasonable points and maybe somewhere deep down inside they realize how foolish it is for them to continue to fight this silly fight for what? For NOTHING or even worse.
Dr. Kahn, I’m with you 100%. I’m angry and depressed at the same time. I’ve become a hermit and feel hostage to the unvaccinated. I watch large close gatherings on TV and can’t think of anything but “How stupid can you be?” and “THIS is why we can’t get over this”. I am certain there are many physicians who feel the same, not just women. Thanks for articulating my feelings.
These are my sentiments . Thank you for writing them down !
I too am always feeling perplexed why the hurt and suffering has been so negated and almost mocked.
I too have become angry.
I am also angry that my 11 year old daughter (who turns 12 at the end of October) now has Covid because her school refused to make masks mandatory. She wore her mask except for lunch, gym class, and recess but because there is virtually no social distancing, she has contracted Covid less than 2 months before she can be vaccinated. She now is quarantined to her bedroom for 10 days missing gymnastics and dance because of it. Luckily, she only has mild symptoms so far but this makes me more than angry that she did what she could and still got Covid all because adults can’t put their political differences aside to protect others even children!
You go girl. We have all been at your stage. We have all come to grips with some community members putting their belief system in front of their own and others’ health. While we are surely the victims of the consequences ….. so are they….
I remind myself that I will do what I can without judgement, but I will continue to protect my own health and that of my family.
I cannot help anyone if I am not here and I cannot live a meaningful life without the support of my loved ones. This is the time to put ourselves first if for no other reason than to be here to help pick up the pieces.
This article represents my sentiments exactly. I’m extremely frustrated and I am angry at the non vaccinated but don’t let them know this. I do believe everyone should be vaccinated even if they had exposure. Our hospital is at capacity, 50 wait in the Er and 20-40 die weekly. Of those patients 3 %are vaccinated.
Thank you for sharing this. I stand with you and support your opinion. It’s enough already.
Well expressed. Amen!
I worked in a hospital where the majority of ICU nurses remained unvaccinated. Worse, several came to work with fever, cough, anosomia, myalgias, headache etc. When I asked “could you have Covid?” They answered “I am Covid positive”. Why are these HCWs allowed to work in the hospital ?!?!?
Bravo Dr. Khan ! I too am exhausted and have felt pushed to my breaking point more than a few times in the last year and a half ~ I am regularly in the ICU space and initially my extreme stress revolved around inadequate supplies and resources ~ there was no vaccine and I had great empathy for folks doing their best to isolate/mask/distance/hand wash and still succumb to this rampaging virus with no love and support from family and friends because it was too dangerous to allow them to be present ~ But now we have a proven vaccine and yet are reliving the devastating early days of the pandemic thanks to the delta variant ~ >95% of pts in our overflowing hospitals with Covid infection are unvaccinated and I can’t help feeling angry ~ What in the world is political about a very dangerous contagious disease for which we now have a safe and effective vaccine ? How did it come to this great divide ? Why should we need vaccination mandates ? Folks should be gratefully lining up and rolling up their sleeves! Yet here we are ~ I pray everyday that common sense will truly become common ~ Thank you for summing up so poignantly the mindset of so many of us in the front lines ~ Stay safe ~
Says it all!!
The final sentence could have been “I quit”!
Excellent writing, I could not agree more
I agree completely. We have to have a national conversation as health care providers to be able to vent our true feelings or it is only going to become more difficult to have empathy for our patients. What is happening with anti-Vaxxers simply defies logic. Thanks for writing an honest piece on the topic.
I fully agree with many of your comments. However, you state, “The vaccines have been rolled out and demonstrated to be safe, and the current division is still whether to vaccinate or not.” I have a strong family history of pulmonary emboli, and have lost 2 healthy relatives to emboli nearly immediately following their second dose of this “safe” vaccine (and yes, it was an mRNA jab, not J&J), and a 3rd will likely live with chronic cor pulmonale. You will recall that this is the first mRNA jab to make it out of clinical trials, and there is zero long term safety evidence. Rare complications, yes, but no one is providing honest informed consent. The 5 year mortality of myocarditis is unchanged at 50%, and our young are suffering this at an increased rate. In the UK and Israel, it is the “vaccinated” (yes, I do not like that it is being compared to traditional vaccines) who are the severely ill and dying. This latter data is still being reviewed, and IDK first hand, but is supported by friends in their respective trenches. The meta-analysis of therapeutics such as Ivermectin is very promising, but mention it or any other therapeutic option in the US, and you are labeled hysterical or anti-vax. Disregarding the (superior) immunity provided by prior illness does not “follow the science.” Our adult children have had the jab, but there are reasons that some of us haven’t.
You articulated my thoughts and feelings, too. I am also frustrated by the college my only child is attending where masks are allegedly mandated when students are indoors, but they are not enforcing it, so the majority of students are not complying. Her roommate insists on being able to bring in visitors at any time, unannounced, into their dorm apartment (at least my child can lock her bedroom door, but that doesn’t stop germ spread in the shared bedroom, kitchen and living area) and the Department of Housing could care less. They told my child that SHE could request a move out of the apartment (it’s the nicest dorm on campus and she loves her bedroom where the view from her window helps her keep her homesickness at bay)! Never mind that the housing guidelines stipulate that no visitors will be allowed over a roommate’s protests. We have multiple vulnerable members in our household and my daughter has increased risk factors for COVID complications, herself. There is so much more that COVID has done to our family and we have lost people in our circle of friends to the illness. To say that I am utterly disappointed in our country is an understatement. Meanwhile, I live in the state that is currently number 1 in COVID cases and see no one in leadership stepping up to really change the tide.
I’m a retired ophthalmologist. I was vaccinated in April, and came down with covid 2 weeks ago. It was a mild case. In Florida where I live, everyone is provided monoclonal antibodies free from multiple sites around the state. If they come in early enough. Even though there are vaccinated people showing up with covid, the doc in the ER said that, of the cases who had to be admitted, only one was vaccinated. All the other admitted cases were unvaccinated.
I respectfully disagree!