Nikki E. Rossetti, MS
Nikki E. Rossetti, MS
You yearn to escape unscathed
as daylight erodes the bleakest night.
Vaccines on the horizon met with a foreign feeling-
But it is too late. She is gone.
Empty promises of protection proved fallible
because even wildflowers wilt in the sun.
She died alone. A numbing statistic.
From the shadows of healthcare, we rise. Now on the front stage.
Science and planning on a moment’s notice have collided…
With a hidden enemy at our door, lives are lost in a battle of time.
Steadfast and determined, we will not fail.
Jason Stalling, MBA
I’ve developed a new appreciation for my own voice – a scream so forceful it took me by surprise. I called it my “pandemic yell”. I recorded it and listened to it over and over again. It was exhilarating to hear and feel the rage inside burst its way out finally. I made it my ringtone.
Mimi Lam, DVM, CCFP, Dip.Path
Watching charts, statistics, news commentators
Wondering where my place was in this strange new world of
Staying home, begging relatives to
My first day back in the hospital
Realizing the cost
In fear, in loneliness, in too-early goodbyes
But I know
With hope and courage
We are finding brightness
And brighter days ahead
Emily Marra, BA
She looks the same, despite many years.
Still young and still tired
as she was in 2005, when I met
her and her son.
His story a tapestry weaving
through so many ICU rooms since that day.
Recognition hits us.
She points out his “first” room.
A sudden hug, ignoring masks.
I don’t pull away.
Wynne Morrison, MD, MBE
Isolated in my room, I cannot leave
Food and drink are brought to me
My breath is infectious, I must wear a mask
It’s getting lonely in here
My dog cries outside my door
I feel sick, but the sadness of this isolation drowns that
Three more days, one negative result
Freedom is so near
“COVID-19, alone, intubated.
Young Black Female,
BLM protests outside.
Significant anemia. Blood ordered post-procedure.
I check on her. Sedation wearing off.
“I never want blood!” she writes.
RN, PRBC bag in hand.
“No blood,” I say.
I alert MD.
“Thank you, Dara,” she writes.”
Dara S. Farhadi, BS, MS
Fever, chest pain, shortness of breath. Death
Shackles, choking, gasping. Death
Centuries of invisible, invincible oppression
A tale of contagion and two viruses
For one- tests, treatments, vaccines, fueled by money
For the other- words and more words, running on empty
Change is coming.
Change is coming.
Change is coming today
No change is coming
Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD
I still need to…
And with our might
our patient’s face suddenly emerges.
Machine air abounds
I hold my breath.
In that moment we praise mask and shield.
Before I can blink,
our airy captain re-attaches the tube.
He was tired and wanted to go home. This was his 14th hospitalization in 3 years. He wanted his wife, his bed and his food. We could always do more. He wanted less. The pandemic made everything uncertain. No one was wearing masks yet. But Mr C did. Cancer might get him, but coronavirus wouldn’t.
R. Michelle Schmidt, MD, MPH
You were excited to see me. And I? Your knee.
You called me a king; pride for me was heavier than the shackles removed.
I was envious.
We did not differ too much.
I have been on their treasure hunt for years.
Hopefully, one day, I jump through enough hoops to find my keys.
We are sorry, you did not match to any position.
Tunnel vision, seasick, mute, colorless world.
Pick up pieces, stand tall, and persevere.
Covid-19 siphon energy, dissolve opportunity.
Covid-19 deaths, screams, financial burden, social isolation.
Covid-19 innovation, virtual togetherness, newfound unity.
Develop dedication, enhance grit, broaden resourcefulness.
I am strong. We are COVID strong.
Gasping, “Something’s wrong …. lungs”
Southern visitor to ER up North.
Has COVID-19 arrived here?
Frightened, don PPE, too late.
Lips quiver behind N95 masks.
Family sent home to quarantine, intubated alone.
Last words, “Thank you… for what you do….. I hope….. you will be OK”
Great compassion. He fights but dies.
It’s not OK.
I Can’t Breath. Please Help.
COVID-19 or police chokehold.
Emergency Medicine doctors- we see it all. Rush to aid.
Give oxygen, intubate, CT scan, medication?
What can we do? Anything? Powerlessness.
Coronavirus and systemic racism.
We can witness, We can feel, We can give voice to our patients.
Act with what energy and time remains.
The world had changed
The masks I only used to see in the hospital
Are now commonplace in public
Everyone thinks so much is hidden behind the mask
But from experience, I know
It’s not as different as it seems
I can see still their smiles in their eyes
Apart but still together
These connections already exist
We were just afraid to try something different
until there is no alternative
Some say there’s no replacement for the face-to-face
Some say the connection is weak
Not real, as its name would imply
But it turns out
Sometimes, an imitation
a Virtual connection is good enough
When the pandemic struck, we were stopped in our tracks. Is music still relevant? Are the arts still relevant? Then the melodies began flowing again. Music is never silenced. We played together again to bring wellness to Covid patients and to restore wellness in ourselves. A way of healing, giving back, restoring our disrupted world.
A lightening bolt in my electronic health record.
Covid – still early, we know so little.
Masked, scrubbed, extra cautious.
Worrying about exposed family.
Daily Health Department check-ins
The national numbers have reached one million.
Days pass, my birthday in quarantine
My daughter sends a cake.
I celebrate being okay.
“I’m a fighter,” she says, blisters across expanses of skin, like the illness is trying to climb its way out. “Remember this: surround yourself with the right people. Because I didn’t.”
Later, I stand on my balcony, alone. My hands are full, people I love available at the swipe of a finger. The world spins.
I cut my nails to the quick that night. God forbid my body betray me or my family, virus somewhere I couldn’t scrub clean. The morning: first COVID patient, ICU transfer, her survival a blessing, her gratitude shattering. Remembering my oath, I leaned stethoscope close, listened, touched. Finally—home. Scalding shower. Called kids; dinner alone.
Sarah L. Clever, MD, MS, FACP
I have a child, husband, elderly parents, job.
Work with colleagues, residents, students, and COVID.
Busy days…lots of responsibilities.
No more vacations, no more school.
Now fear of infection is the reality.
Now fear of infecting my family is the reality.
Have to stay healthy, optimistic, strong.
I am a mother, wife, daughter, and doctor.
How hard it is to stay home.
I think about how we are all participating and doing the right thing. I appreciate that lots of peoples lives will be saved in hospitals because of you. Don’t you ever wish that coronavirus wasn’t here and that there were no viruses in the world?
Can you imagine that?
Lauren Fine, MD (in collaboration with Emma Fine)
These days you understand me more than before
We long for the loved ones who we’re not able to see
We worry for them
We look tired in the mornings, wondering all night how next day will be
But everyday your warm thoughts melt my plastic costume
So happy to see each other again
Zoom. Botched audio, reactions delayed. The way “genuine” connections start these days.
Pre-med, curly hair, Atlanta – the topics of discussion. 1.5 hours, I realized I’d found a good person.
A person who’s genuine, kind, and shares quite a few interests of mine.
A person whose friendship I could see standing the test of time.
We are the brea (d) th of Evolution, Creation and The Divine.
Generations before us, molded this For-Ever-ness of Us. Thriving, excelling, and flourishing. We Breathe.
Carving Tomorrows. Creating Flourish. For those who come after Us.
“Here. We are still. Here.”
Adwoa Osei, MD FAAP
My daughter just turned one. She likes to play pull-the-mask-off-mommy’s-face. We stayed home from March to June, took clerkships online, sat for boards, got a puppy, read a lot of Winnie-the-Pooh and Goodnight Moon. I became essential. I got what I longed for – family, and a course in courage, reflection, and how-to-be-a-Mom.
Minneapolis is eighty miles away, so these events literally hit close to home. As a black man, it can be uncommon for others to be concerned about my safety. Many of my colleagues asked how they can show solidarity. I am grateful for these bright lights during this dark moment in our country’s history.
“The treatment isn’t working anymore” I say.
“That’s quite alright.” she says.
“Would you like to see the chaplain?”
“Later.” A tear runs down her cheek. “Can you pray with me?”
I’ve never been religious, but I sit down, hold her hand, close my eyes and let the peace silence brings wash over us.
His wife takes notes with shaky hands.” Kidneys – stable; cancer – progressing.”
“I don’t want you to be in intensive care unit again.”
I don’t want it either.
Six months later, a letter:
“We appreciated your
the e-messages after hours.
“It is too quiet around here without Randy.”
For Once, I take a
Moment for our nature.
To see stories unspoken
Behind smiling eyes.
To finally forget
The lip’s wasted language
and other luxuries.
For once I find myself
Observing human harmony
Within the realm of discord.
I take a moment for myself
To take in the natural world.
March 13: Another waitlist.
March 15: Lockdown tomorrow. Grocery store trip.
March 16: Unemployed.
March 22: Offering to reschedule your wedding.
May 6: Wedding… is… postponed. No acceptances… No job…
June 2: Off the waitlist!
June 5: Zoom courthouse wedding!
June 6: Cross-country move!
July 15: Welcome to MS1!
“Only” student doctors, always overseen.
Gained confidence from clerkships, no longer green.
But – “only” student doctors – and pulled from hospitals.
Look back on your journey! We’re not so brittle.
PPE donated, contacts traced, patients screened.
Though not in the hospital, we have done this and more,
After all, we are student doctors
It is tender hearted – brigade of nurses
From upstate – arriving downstate,
Bearing their families’ state of mind:
Go and serve,
We bear your absence here –
With your presence there.
John F. DeCarlo
1998: Hiding in the attic. “Shhhh,” Baba whispered. “No refugees here,” Jordanian police said.
1999: Mama said “America where people are free and safe” accepted us.
2020: Pandemic. Despair. Racism. 7,791 miles. Iraq to America. Still not enough to escape injustice.
White coat hangs, symbolizing the force that preserves life, instead of destroying it.
Hair cap, N95, surgical face mask, face shield.
My daily armor
I smile, but they cannot see.
My eyes are all that are available
No family, no friends allowed; they are alone and afraid.
Compassion and love
From my soul, through my touch and my eyes
I hope to provide.
I ran along the dusty road,
To escape the loneliness and pain untold.
Toward the old woman sitting on the porch I plodded,
She became my beacon given what life had allotted.
A stranger she remains in every sense except one,
Everyday without knowing it she saves me, with a simple wave on my run.
There was a day when life felt warm; serene and calm,
Perhaps foretold of an approaching storm,
Then there is today, like a shadowy squall,
As life dissipated into a helpless yowl,
But there is always tomorrow, unseen but felt
Of hope and love, far but near,
Like a story of history and time itself.
Hamza Ali Lodhi
Chart review: 82 y/o female with multiple cancer relapses and a poor prognosis.
”I married my high school love sixty years back. We travelled, raised kids and are blessed with great-grandkids. I have had a wonderful life ”
She started treatment before I was even born.
I wondered if I was with the wrong patient.
“So you’re who I have to blame for my hoarseness?” said my former ICU patient. “But you were REALLY really sick…” In that moment, you understood: your eyes filled with tears and gratitude, as did mine, and we were two doctors both crying over Zoom as we stared at each other, thankful to be alive.
Moved cross-country to start medical school.
All day I learn science and humanities
So that I won’t lose my humanity
When my future patients need it most.
Isolated from old friends by distance
And from new friends by COVID-19,
Somehow cares for our son without me.
The wedding was canceled. A package came from my mom – two masks, one white with lace, one black with a bowtie. We asked our Medicine program director to marry us on the nearby bridge. We walked down the street, our families in our pockets, our dog replacing the bridal party. It was wonderful.
A chair and a desk
In the basement of my home.
Isolation, fear, uncertainty.
A light and a chime
From the screen of my computer
doubt, nervousness, anxiety.
A laugh and a voice
Fills the air in my room.
Resilience, hope, reverie.
Notes and drawings
Sprawled across my desk.
Excitement, zeal, fervency.
Connection can heal.
Connections with patients form the foundation of trust
That connection used to evolve from a smile or gentle touch
Now, I smile at patients, forgetting that the smile is hidden behind my mask
I look into their eyes and see their fears and hopes
We continue on and make new connections through all the uncertainty.
Our eyes now smile for our mouths that have lost the privilege. They pierce through the tension engendered by collective fear to remind us that we are still human, and that we still have the propensity to love one another. Our eyes protect us by bringing us together, while keeping us apart.
Our crisis wears on
And life still creates challenges
New and old to all
I know what I’ve kept
I see what others have lost
Hardships, they abound
You are on my mind
My heart goes out to you all
who give in these times
Thank you for everything you do.
Balancing on tightrope
Rural America and inner-city staring me down
Death haunting those I love
Lack of hospitals- grim reaper looming
Family casualties in the war of inequality and racism
New threat of COVID-19- misinformation rising
The first medical degree- potential savior
A long path- bringing awareness hopefully home.
Filtered breath escapes between my mask and nose,
fogging shield, yet
I clearly see your worried brow.
Cloth and plastic
muffle voices, disguise faces, lips
cannot hide smiling eyes.
I would grasp your warm hands
with my inevitably cold ones, tactile sensate
Gloved must do
haptics muted by clammy nitrile
cannot dull a healing touch.
Lealani Mae Acosta, MD, MPH
Knitting has always been my companion; in COVID, we grew closer. She brought purpose to my hands when touch was no longer an option. She made me feel useful as the world crumbled and roused parts of my brain through creativity. Together, we discovered what could be as yarn unraveled and color returned from darkness.
His days are long at sixty,
As they have always been.
His eyes closed briefly between cases
When the adrenaline fades.
His cough is better now.
My time is still consumed by
Books and flashcards and
Mock patient encounters,
But I’m coming, Dad.
I’ll be there soon.
Winston Whiting Oliver
Emotions have been everywhere. Students care and want to see patients. Residents want to experience the pandemic upfront. We must let them. We must support them. We must protect them. We must keep ourselves whole. We must let patients see our hearts and imagine our faces. We must breathe. We must teach. We must heal.
Regina Macatangay, MD
Social distancing isolated him, and left him time to think,
A window into what might wait for him after retirement.
To avoid his future, his pain, led him to drink,
And so he came to us. We removed his shroud.
He stepped from our hands to the care of others.
We stood together, fighting despair.
“There’s no heartbeat”, she says.
Numbly trudge back to work to face another day.
First patient: “Been praying for you every day. You pregnant yet?”
I burst into tears. Very professional.
An ample, yet firm, gentle, yet strict grandmother of 11, she gives me the only comfort I’ll feel today.
A mother’s hug.
Med school, such an incredibly hard endeavor for it’s subjects. Imagine starting your first semester just to have a hurricane blow by in September and wreck your island. Couple of years later get a 6.4 magnitude earthquake followed by the COVID-19 a couple of months later. WE WILL PREVAIL!
Jaime A. Roman
Quarantine breeds stress
Thoughts race, water runs, dishes soak, the cassoulet breaks
Blood between thumb and index finger pools
Left arm raised high
Call the PCP, stay calm
They’ll see me
Thankful for community-based-care, my kind DO
Asked what I needed, listened and validated all the feelings.
and old photographs
make me cry.
the limited time
pills large and small
constrict my throat.
fugues in time
swim before my eyes.
The touch of your hands
hope in your eyes
the smile on your face
are all I need to go on.
Research Proposal Specialist
Like an encroaching storm, COVID-19 gains momentum. An ominous sky foreshadows masked isolation and death. Discontented winds sweep the land. The burden of racial injustice saturates the dark clouds, erupting in pelting rain, each drop stinging wherever it lands. Hailstones of racial violence add destruction to the deluge. Will a rainbow follow this national maelstrom?
Michael P. Flanagan, MD
They say, “It’s not a great time to enter medicine”.
They say, “This country is fractured beyond repair”.
“So America is like a skeleton”?
“Then who’s better to repair,
than those in healthcare”?
We might be scared of what’s to come.
But we will work til’ we’ve gone numb.
Another invisible war to fight. Headline news – “in these unprecedented times of uncertainty.” I am confused, what are we referring to, COVID-19 or how I’ve felt my whole life as a black man in America? Pause, breathe, think. Maybe knowing is not important because something is different this time. Ironically, I don’t feel alone.
I am not scared of death, but the uncertainties of life
Everyday i go to bed with my faith to wake up alive
Sometimes worried about the fall, yet I am standing tall
It’s “Hippocratic Oath” Guys! All troubles seems small
Let’s embrace the uncertainties with responsibility
To defeat the virus, racism, stigma & inhumanity…
Jarina Begum, MD
Two girls were born on the same day
thousands of miles apart. They grew up speaking Spanish.
Thirty years later, CoVID and pregnancy would bring them to meet across an ICU window.
Over shared prayers and a rosary;
finally – a crying baby at home with his mom.
It’s our birthday this week.
He was young. He was loved. With every chest compression we heard his voice, the wails of his family. We worked our hardest. For two hours we tried and tried. But it was for naught. For he was long gone. We said our goodbyes. Now its back to work. Another life saved. Another life lost.