I confess that COVID made me think about leaving bedside practice.

Lakeish
6 min readNov 24, 2020

Ever since I was a little boy, I have only ever wanted to be a Doctor. It was all I ever dreamed of. I shadowed my uncle multiple times, who is an Emergency Medicine physician. I signed up to be a model for resident physicians, training on how to deal with crisis situations. I even worked one summer during high school cleaning colonoscopes.

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Medicine was all I ever wanted to do, and I was determined to do all that it took to become a Doctor.
When I applied to Medical School, the odds were against me. I was told flat out by my “advisor” that I was not going to get in, that my application was too weak, and so many others were much more qualified. I paid that “advisor” no mind, applying during the Fall of 1994.
I only got one interview in February 1995, and I was placed on the waiting list in March. I then forgot about Medical School and focused on getting through my last semester in college.
My uncle, the Emergency Medicine physician, harrassed me to call the Medical School and find out the status of my application.
“I’m not going to get in,” I told him.
“Just call them,” he replied calmly.
So, two days later, I called the Medical School to find out my status on the waiting list. The woman on the phone sounded confused.
“We sent your acceptance letter last week.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I told her I never received the letter because it turns out they sent it to the wrong address. I corrected the address on file, and before we hung up, I confirmed:
“So, I’ve been accepted?”
“Uh huh.”
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
They only keep the slot open for two weeks before awarding it to someone else, and a week had already gone by unbeknownst to me. I could have ignored my uncle’s pleas to call the school and find out. I could have forgotten to make the call that literally changed the trajectory of my entire life.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
It is a very hard to time be a physician right now, especially one who is working in the ICU — on the very front lines of the war against COVID-19. We see the absolute worst of the worst, and the scale of death and destruction is unlike anything I or any of my colleagues have ever seen.
Every day, we literally risk our very lives to care for the sickest of the sick with this horrific illness. We are facing PPE shortages, and in a recent statement, the Critical Care Societies Collaborative said,
Widespread and ongoing use of contingency measures to preserve PPE supplies places our healthcare workforce at unconscionable risk.
Over 1,300 healthcare workers have died from COVID-19. The situation is dire, and this second wave is way, way, way worse than the first. And we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet. We haven’t had Christmas yet. It’s going to get really bad before it gets better.
And yet, I say again: there, but for the grace of God, go I.
There is a great deal of fear that comes with caring for patients with COVID-19. That’s what makes this pandemic so much worse. I confess that COVID made me think about leaving bedside practice. But the call to that bedside was way too strong. I can’t leave because I am so grateful to be here in the first place, being given the honor of caring for the sick at their most vulnerable.
Have I had bad days? Absolutely. Is it really hard work, both physically and mentally exhausting? Of course. Is this the best way to make money? Hell no.
But I’ve never forgotten how it felt yearning — and praying so hard — to get into medical school. I’ve never forgotten the thrill of getting my lab coat on the first day of school. I’ve never forgotten how badly I wanted this career. Others joke about “living the dream.” I am truly living my dream, and I am so grateful to God for it.
A spiritual teacher of mine told me that those who are in the service of a sick person are in God’s Transcendent Mercy until they finish their service. This gave me such great comfort, especially in the darkest days of the Spring when the COVID was all around us. The Winter is going to be so much darker, and I will need that Transcendent Mercy more than ever.
And yet, I think back to that morning in May 1995 when I made that fateful call to the medical school. There was nothing in particular that made me make the call. I was bored, in fact, and I figured I would humor my uncle and call the school. I truly believed my “advisor’s” words that I was not going to get in.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
And so I will try my hardest to be the best physician I can be; to come to work each day with a smile; to do all that I can to help those entrusted to my care. It is the very least I can do, and it is the only way I can show gratitude to the Lord — Who has given me the honor of including me in the privileged few who are called to care for His children.
I could have forgotten to make that call in May 1995. I am so very grateful to the Lord our God that He reminded me otherwise.

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