Day 2657: Some things can’t be undone

Last night, after spending many hours in online therapy groups joining with people who felt undone by the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw Bonnie Raitt on our TV …

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… performing the song “Undone,” with the line “Some things can’t be undone.”

Some things can’t be undone, like the USA’s initial reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, which will result in many more lives lost.

My other photos from yesterday can’t be undone.

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That salmon was perfectly done.

Some things can’t be undone, like my ordering this massager to undo the knots in my neck, shoulder, and back after working every day from home:

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Some things can’t be undone, like my having a pacemaker (see warning #7 above).

Some good things can’t be undone, like the incredible acts of bravery and kindness performed every day by health care workers, like Emergency Medicine Physician Halleh Akbarnia:

I have been an Emergency Medicine Physician for almost 20 years. I have worked through numerous disasters, and I’m used to the daily grind of heart attacks, gunshots, strokes, flu, traumas, and more. It’s par for the course in my field. Yet nothing has made me feel the way I do about my “job” as this pandemic has—that knot-in-the-pit–of-your-stomach sensation while heading into work, comforted only by the empathetic faces of my colleagues who are going through the same. I am grateful for their presence, knowing they are both literally and figuratively with me, that they understand and accept so profoundly the risks we take each day. I also hope that my friends and family forgive me for my lack of presence during this time—precisely when we need each other most—and that they realize that their words, their encouragement, and their small gestures that come my way daily are the fuel that gets me through each day. This is a story for all of us.

I met my patient, Mr. C., on my first real “pandemic” shift, when what we were seeing that day was what we had been preparing for. He was classic in his presentation, his X-ray findings, his low oxygen levels… we just knew. And he was the nicest man I had met in a long time. Gasping for breath, he kept asking if we needed anything, and that it would all be okay. He told us he was a teacher but that he was learning so much from us, and how much he respected what we were doing. The opposite could not be more true.

We had to decide how long we would try to let him work through this low oxygen state before needing to intubate him. His levels kept falling and despite all our best efforts it was time to put him on the ventilator. He told us he didn’t feel great about this, “but Doc, I trust you and am putting myself in your hands.” That uneasy feeling in my stomach grew even more in that moment. But he, with his teacher’s steady voice, kept me grounded, where I was supposed to be. I saw his eyes looking at me, seeing the kindness in them, even as we pushed the medications to put him to sleep. To say this was an “easy” intubation is an understatement. It was not. He nearly left us a few times during those first minutes, but he kept coming back. We fought hard to keep him with us. The patience and strength of my team that day, truly remarkable.

I handed him over to my friend and colleague, Dr. Beth Ginsburg, and her team in the ICU, and her calming voice reassured me that they had it from here. And then for the next twelve days, I waited and watched his progress, knowing the statistics, and how sick he was when he got to us. They did their magic, and just yesterday my new friend Mr. C was extubated. I decided to go “meet” him again.

Mr C. was in the COVID stepdown unit, recovering, without family. Nobody was allowed to visit him; even worse, his wife had been home alone in isolation for the past fourteen days, too. My heart broke thinking of how that must have been for her. I cautiously went into his room, donned in my PPE, and when he saw me, he stopped for a second. A moment of recognition.

I introduced myself. “I’m Dr. Akbarnia, Mr. C. I was the last person you saw in the ER. You told me you trusted us to get you to this side. Looks like you did just fine.” He started to cry. He said, “I remember your eyes.” And I started to cry. What he didn’t know is that, at that moment, I realized that we do what we do exactly for people like him, for moments like these. His strength, his kindness, his calming words to me meant everything. At that moment, my heart (which had been beating over 100 bpm since this pandemic began) finally slowed down.

I sat down and we talked. I told him that while he is here, we are his family. He will always have a place in my heart. And whether he knows it or not, he will be my silent warrior and guide as I take care of every patient, COVID or not. He will fuel me until the day I hang up my stethoscope.

(Picture and story posted with full permission from patient)

ETA: I was asked if this can be shared. Please do.

#covidsurvivor #hope #covid19 #advocatehealth #condell #frontliners #inthistogether #heartofaphysician

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Some things can’t be undone, like my daily gratitude to all who help me create these daily posts, including YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

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26 thoughts on “Day 2657: Some things can’t be undone

  1. Thank you for being so real in everything you do, Ann.

  2. Thank you so much for what you do and for sharing Dr. Akbarnia’s story, as well as the wonderful Bonnie Raitt. So much has changed in what seems like too short a time, but, right now, I feel profoundly changed by Dr. Akbarnia’s story, and changed for the better.

  3. Such a great story from Dr. A. Thanks for sharing.

    A couple of days ago a friend posted a selfie with a tuft of white hair, saying she didn’t like the Cruella de Vil look. Several people posted Bonnie Raitt photos. Much more appropriate than Cruella 🙂

  4. Aww, that’s for sharing Dr. Akbarnia’s story. It’s a reminder that we’re all connected and we are all one human race. (●’ᴗ’σ)σணღ

  5. I mean thanks…( ෆຶдෆຶ)

  6. Thank you for sharing Dr. Akbarnia’s story.

  7. Kelly Haran

    Thank you for sharing that touching story of Dr. Akbarnia and Mr. C.
    So glad I read that just now and will share.
    Also – always inspired by your healthy and delicious dinners.

  8. puella33

    Thank you, Ann for always being there for us and giving us hope. . ❤

  9. It’s nice to hear stories like Dr. A’s with the human connection and healing. Thanks for that.

  10. No-one can undo the joy that I got from reading of Mr C. and Halleh Akbarnia.
    Thank you to them, and to you.

  11. Yeah you can’t undo having a baby, just saying
    You can’t undo death either once dead you remain dead, just saying

  12. The impact your sharing and caring have on all those you encounter can’t be undone, Ann. 💕

    • The impact of you sharing your kind and caring comments here can’t be undone, Lori, and I’m so grateful for that!

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