I am a radiation oncology resident who was involved in taking care of COVID-19 patients at the Audie Murphy VA Medical Center. I trained for nearly three years solely in an outpatient setting, where patients aren’t typically sick enough to warrant acute hospital-level care. So I must admit that the thought of diving back into the inpatient medicine wards and doing it in the midst of a deadly pandemic, was nerve-wracking. It would give even Chuck Norris anxiety.
I entered the inpatient COVID ward around the same period that the case numbers started to rise in San Antonio. I often asked myself what I would do if I got sick, or worse, what would I do if I ended up getting my family sick. I could see how devastated patients were from not only feeling ill, but also being uprooted from their family and loved ones, pets and day-to-day routines.
We are often advised to remove, or at least limit, emotional investments and connections with our patients as it can be mentally taxing to our well-being if a less-than-ideal outcome occurs. I find this nearly impossible to do. I often see portrayals of my loved ones in patients whom I’ve just met. There’s certainly a healthy balance to maintain in physician-patient relationships, but I don’t think I know many people who can separate from the empathetical human emotion of admitting a patient who just lost his wife of 50 years to COVID-19 before he himself presented with respiratory issues.
I was involved in assisting the low-intensity COVID team, which fortunately resulted in favorable outcomes for most of our patients. Moreover, the VA faculty and ancillary staff were incredibly understanding of our limitations as residents from a different department. They made us feel exceedingly safe as proper PPE was always in adequate supply.
I am thankful for being able to meet and work with these wonderful physicians who have endlessly sacrificed to provide accessible health care to our nation’s veterans.
Dioval Remonde, MD
PGY4 Radiation Oncology