Thursday, April 9, 2020

Spring Break

Was that only three weeks ago? It seems like a year ago. We were supposed to rent an SUV and drive the kids and two of their best friends to Crested Butte, one of their favorite SB haunts, to ski. I don't ski any more; my advancing age hinders me from experimenting with heights and rapid downhill glides, but snowshoeing and resort spas and picturesque, pastoral landscapes from the safety of hearthside airbnb's are still a draw.

Instead, like the rest of the nation, I canceled at the last minute. Airbnb was thankfully liberal with their return policies - I'm still using the return credit on my credit card as petty cash for groceries and Amazon buys. I've been using the same pair of three scrubs on and off at work depending on my mood for dressing up to keep up with my female Little Rock partners (both of whom dress impeccably) for 10 years, so I finally ordered the same size/make of scrubs online last week. Nine pairs cost me a little over a hundred bucks - there are discount galore these days for healthcare/sacrificial workers. After washing them when they arrived the other night, I was a tad frustrated to find the same size and brand I tried on many years ago was at least a size bigger and a few inches longer. Has America grown that much in a decade? Oh well. I rolled them up yesterday morning at the hem after washing them and fancied myself my 90's version of me -- full on baggy grunge.

I'm in a group text with four other doc/moms I'm in a book club with. Over Spring Break we all decided dry cleaner clothes were wise to put on hold - safer to wear scrubs that could be washed in hot water as soon as we got home. Our closet could wait until COVID was over. They are two radiologists, a family doc, and an oncologist. They have varying degrees of anxiety over COVID based on their personal histories and workplace exposures but we are all anxious, and their intelligent approach to this process has been a balm over the last few weeks. They are all like minded politically so we share memes and information and check in with each other every other day or so.

I spent Spring Break largely on my back porch touring, of all places, Kentucky. One of the doc moms recommended The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, which was a lovely historical fiction about the packhorse librarians in rural Kentucky. Unknowingly and funny in retrospect, I also read another historical fiction about packhorse librarians recommended by someone in my other book club called The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I rounded out the Kentucky tour with a nonfiction called Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains by Cassie Chambers -  a nonfiction I ordered after reading a Slate article about it a week or two earlier. It was a nice antidote to Hillbilly Elegy - she rises from Kentucky poverty while celebrating the amazing women who lifted her up into the halls of Harvard and returns as a lawyer to fight for the women in poverty that represent her family. It really wasn't a bad alternative to the Spring Break we planned. I probably would have been doing the same thing by the fireplace while the kids were skiing.

Hard to believe that was only two weeks ago. We continue to do lots of cancer surgeries at work. Rotating two docs off every day - we decided to do the same thing to our staff that we do for ourselves - keeps the numbers of cases about normal. Our new ENT doc had a record number of cases yesterday and I was doing late frozens on a mandibulectomy - he had already done a laryngectomy and a wide local resection on the scalp. It was reassuring to learn that the ENT society had mandated that all head and neck surgical patients be screened and rendered COVID negative prior to operation. That society is keeping its docs safe. I worried again for my ex, an anesthesiologist. That is another specialty that works closely with the airway, risking exposure with every intubation. He's been pulled into a special team of seven docs - pulmonologists, anesthesia, infectious disease, etc., that are the forefront of this advancing pandemic at our hospital. He is now rounding as an ICU doc. My partner over blood bank was on a conference call with some of the members of this team last night planning our first convalescent plasma COVID treatment, which might take place tomorrow night. If so, it will be the first one done in the state.

Fear and worries aside, Arkansas seems to still be doing well. As of yesterday, we only have 8 inpatient positives and only one is on the vent. I know that there are a million sources out there, but mine project the peak to be April 27 here and projected deaths are 300 as of right now. That sounds terrible, but it is way under the curve and we will hopefully avoid crisis mode. I see online they are writing names of patients on body bags in New York, in fear of losing ID tags. Hopefully our planned use of bright yellow COVID positive/suspicious signs to attach to body bags will be kept to a minimum. And I'm looking forward to next Spring Break, which I anticipate looking a lot better for our entire nation.

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