“front line”

Apr 26, 2020 by

I lay in bed on this beautiful Sunday morning telling myself I should be outside with my daughter.

I have so little time with her as it is.

I can hear her laughing as daddy builds the new water table I bought last week.

But Heather doesn’t understand that I give gifts to show my love.

All she sees is daddy putting it together and daddy playing with her in it. 

I can’t get out of bed.

I’m tired from mourning the life I once knew. 

The life of a doctor before COVID-19. 

Neighbors walk by, friends send texts, the media states over and over “thank you doctor, thank you for being on the front line.” 

But I now know there is a vast difference between the “front line” and the “front front line.” My “front line” is quite simply this…sit day after day alone in my office and FaceTime my patients- desperately trying to manage issues that only one month ago required extensive face-to-face visits.

I FaceTime my patients and watch them cough and sweat and shake and cry and struggle while begging me “can’t you do anything to help?”

I cannot. And then twice, perhaps three times a day, I dress myself in head to toe hazmat gear to care for patients whose clinical condition can no longer be managed over the phone.

Those times, I am so very afraid. How do I still “put patients first” when their very presence riddles me with fear?

The chaos is unmanageable.

My “front-front line” is quite simply this…I wait. I wait for a few more of my colleagues to fall sick and Jesus God, how can this even be real- to die.

So that once there are too few to serve, the hospital powers that be will telephone and say “Dr. Gamble, we need your help on the “front-front line.”

I am heartsick at what is happening to my friends, to my patients and to my colleagues.

Such irreplaceable loss.

I am paralyzed.I am powerless. I am afraid.I don’t want to die.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up not even remembering who I was. Or maybe she would only have memories of a mother who wouldn’t hug her until she had showered “the virus” away.

If I am lucky perhaps she will remember how we would lay in bed at night to read a few short stories and sing Disney songs until one of us fell asleep…If I die now, she will never remember my face.

And yet (and yet), in the ugly and intubated face of my COVID-19 fear- I will help, I will not give up and I will never, ever walk away. My little girl’s laughter drifts through my bedroom window, saying “Mommy come play with us.”

That little voice is so much more important than my COVID-19 fear.

So I kick off the covers and place both feet on the floor.

Before standing I muster the courage to reach over and check my phone. There are no missed calls from the hospital and no desperate emails stating “it’s time.”

Good.

I am a doctor who is nothing more than human in the time of COVID-19.“

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