Unprecedented Times…

by John P Erwin III (@HeartOTXHeartMD)

The Breakfast Club

…or at least unprecedented in my lifetime. 

Even for those of us with medical training and knowledge, very few could’ve truly fathomed what such a tiny little virus could do to our global society in such a short time if asked even a few months ago.  I’m a heart doctor, and the SARS-CoV-2 virus most certainly affects the heart, but I’m not going to focus on the primary health/medical aspects of this disease/pandemic.  This ‘blog will focus on the psycho-social aspects of how it has personally affected me over the last several weeks.

As I described last week, I am about to make a major career move.  It was not one that I had sought after, anticipated, nor desired…until it was.  Making a very long story short, this Heart of Texas doctor is soon to move to the Windy City.  In the midst of this rapid career transition, this nasty little disease ( Covid-19 ) decided to insert itself into our world in a big way.

There is no need in parsing out the details of how pandemic has impacted our society, because you all are feeling it and living it just like am.  I just wanted to point out some of the things that I had taken for granted as I made my preparations for this life transition.

First, I’m missing being able to fully mark the transition with my family.  My youngest brother and both of my parents have become victims of the virus and my mother-in-law is on quarantine having been exposed to my mother.  My other brothers are respecting social distancing, as are my two sons and their significant others.  My oldest son is engaged to be married this summer and we had lots of plans for pre-matrimonial celebrations with them and with my soon to be daughter-in-love’s incredible family.  As my youngest son is on immunotherapy for an auto-immune disorder, we must remain hypervigilant to putting him at any further risk.  My wife will remain behind in Texas for a few months to tie up logistical issues of the move as well as to help her mother as we prepare for her to move up North with us.

Secondly, I had initially scheduled many of my long-term patients to come in for one last visit.  I did get the opportunity to do that for several, but as the shelter-in-place orders began to arise, along with our increasing ability to do tele-health/virtual- and e-visits to keep our patients and staff safer during this pandemic, that window of opportunity was closed.  I grieve not being able to share one last smile, airing of concerns, prayer, and hug with them as many of these patients have come to be my family over these many years. 

Thirdly, I was greatly looking forward to the Hail and Farewell’s that had been planned for me by friends, family, and work colleagues which have had to be cancelled due to the critical need for us to maintain “social distancing”.  Please don’t assume that I was looking forward to being the center of attention, as my personal style has generally been to make a quiet and thankful bidding adieu; however, the ritual of formally greeting these special people in my life is an important one with such a long-distance move…especially during these profound times.

Flatten the Curve

Lastly, it has been very difficult to be in a transition phase during this very difficult time for so many in my life here as well as those in the new work/friend family that I will be inheriting in my new environment.  As a healthcare leader, planning for Covid-19 and helping to maintain calm strength amongst one’s comrades is paramount.  Based upon the epidemiological timing of the peak of the infamous “curve”, I am likely to be leaving my current team just as they are about to hit the crest and joining my future team just as they contend with the after-effects of peak onslaught.  In trying to be “all-in”, I find that I feel I’m simultaneously fighting a battle on two fronts- Two fronts in which I have considerable admiration, respect, and love for the main force fighting the front-line battle. The front-line is the place where I always feel that I should be with my team.

I must keep in mind that as difficult as it is now for my transition, as always, it remains hardest to those personally affected by the disease and those friends and family who love them. In these unprecedented times, we are also having to curtail visitors into the hospitals even when their loved ones are on the brink of death…and in those who are losing loved ones in the midst of this, they are having to grieve alone…at least physically…without the usual comfort of wakes with comforting supporters and proper funerals replete with a loving community to mourn alongside them.

The consolation?

I am reassured by these things:

  1. My family is strong and knows from where their hope comes.
  2. My current work family is talented and well prepared for battle.
  3. My new work family has planned well and is performing admirably under duress.
  4. I have received countless thoughtful well-wishes that I will be able to save as keepsakes
  5. God is good and those who have Him in their lives never die or mourn alone.

This pandemic will change our society in many ways:

  • We will see both the best and the worst of our human nature in ensuing weeks to months. 
  • We will see new approaches to care and better planning for future disasters come from this. 
  • We will come to appreciate more acutely the blessings which we’ve taken for granted, and
  • We will prioritize more that which is truly important

If you can choose to be anything in all of this, please choose to be kind! We’re all in it together…apart!

God bless- John

2 thoughts on “Unprecedented Times…”

  1. I am isolating in my room because we moved in with my oldest son to get listed in Phx. He continues to work and has been taking my 17 year old to help him. I don’t think he understands that I will die if I get this. I know he loves me, I think he is in denial. He continues to have guests over, so I’m safer in my room.

    I was sitting on my bed the other day, looking out my open window when I was suddenly reminded of the story The Spinx by Edgar Allen Poe.

    I had to laugh because the only thing missing was the moth upon my window.

    I am in the hands of our Lord. I feel comforted by that. His will be done, and I’m good with that.

    Love and prayers going up for you and your beautiful family. Stay well, John, the world needs more people like you.


  2. Truly an essential article of superlative empathy and compassionate clarity for all to peruse and pause for thought! Belated Easter 2020 greetings to you and your wider family households. A warm toast to a great career venture ahead in Chicago! Looking forward to more such words of wisdom in the future. ?????

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