We had planned and paid for a trip to Paris during the spring break that we were very much looking forward to. That vacation had to be canceled and our lives turned upside down overnight as a result of coronavirus pandemic.
On days on which my internal physician wife, Sonal Advani, examines patients with COVID-19 symptoms, she comes home completely sapped of all energy. She changes her clothes in the garage and then runs to the shower without interacting with me or our twin ten-year-old daughters. When she comes out of the shower, I can see the fear and despair in her eyes. That comes in part with being around some very sick and coughing patients, but it is mostly concern about the safety of her family. She does not want to pass on any infection to us, or to my mother who is in her 80s with a severely compromised immune system.
She says that she signed up for this when she became a physician, but her family did not. Unfortunately, unlike the solider in a war risking her or his life knowingly that their family is safe, such is not the case for physicians and other healthcare workers on the frontline and EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, the police and others who are continuing to do their jobs to make sure our lives suffer the least amount of disturbance.
We read stories from China, Italy and other parts of the world about a large number of healthcare workers getting infected and many of them have died, which causes even more anxiety. A large number of healthcare workers in the world are working in hospitals and clinics which have limited supplies of protective gear. Fortunately, my wife has always had personal protective equipment or PPE unlike others in the world who have to improvise with garbage bags and other homemade gowns and masks which only provide an illusion of protection. All of this adds to our anxiety level; it is very difficult for either of us to sleep through the night.
I never imagined being married to an internal medicine physician who only saw patients in her clinic could be hazardous. What didn’t seem remotely possible only a few short weeks ago has become a daily reality of our lives. Now it seems to be a lifetime ago but only recently, I had a very busy professional life with my law practice and various bar association activities. Our social life was also very hectic with frequent parties and getting together with friends and extended family. All of this has changed. At times it appears hopeless. I long for the days when we could go to our favorite Indian restaurant or sushi place. All of that appears to be a distant memory. I have been attempting to work from home, but it is very difficult to focus and only most urgent of the work is getting done.
The kids appear to have adjusted to this new reality quickly and taking it in stride. Their school started online education after being offline for a week. They spend time doing academic work but also playing with their friends online. They have been very easy to get along with and not too fussy about the lunch that I am able to offer them on days when their mother is not home.
I fill up my time reading and watching the news about coronavirus to stay up to date and learn about many promising drugs that are underdoing trial. It has not all been negative; I am spending more time with the kids and every day we go for a long family walk. I have also reconnected with many friends on Social Media and we frequently exchange our views on the current crisis and what would it take to open the society.
My wife and I frequently talk about this crisis and our hope for the future. We believe that sooner rather than later there will be treatment and ultimately a vaccine will be available. I am very proud of my wife’s decision to continue to work through this crisis. When I asked her if she wanted to take some time off from work, she said she didn’t become a doctor to run away when going got tough. She reminds me of her Hippocratic oath. She says I would have done the same if the roles were reversed.
We are longing for the days when our lives will be back to normal. We are hopeful. We live in San Francisco Bay Area where the aggressive steps taken by various counties appear to have flattened the curve.