The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped everyone’s lives. But for health-care workers, the impact of covid-19 is felt acutely, tragically, every day. To capture the lived reality of this, we asked Shaoli Chaudhuri, 30, who is in her third and last year as an internal medicine resident at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), to keep a 30-day diary of what she is experiencing. Chaudhuri works at CUIMC and the Allen Hospital in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. Here are excerpts from her diary, which you can read in full at the end.
(Courtesy of Shaoli Chaudhuri)
A few days ago, I learned Columbia had one of the first covid-19 patients in New York City.
Today, I truly stepped into the pandemic. A nightmarish scene met me as I entered the intensive care unit (ICU) for the first time since the virus took hold in the city. The overnight case involved a man in his 40s with no foreign travel and no real medical history except hypertension. He had experienced typical cold symptoms for three days.
Then, in the emergency room, his oxygen saturation dropped suddenly, and he was put on a ventilator.
“He’s so young,” I exclaimed more than once. And so sick.
In the afternoon, one of our nurses asked me:“You okay?”
I’d woken up with headaches and muscle pain but dismissed it; I figured I was just worn down and stressed. But as I tried to talk to my team, I couldn’t focus. My head was pounding, every muscle ached, all I wanted was to lie down on the floor. I snuck over to a thermometer and saw I had a low-grade temperature. As fast as I could, I left the Allen ICU, away from people, to call health and safety. They instructed me to self-isolate immediately.
I felt myself tearing up. The thing I’ve dreaded has happened. I have covid-19.
At 7 p.m., I frowned at sounds of people whooping, clapping, cars honking. I was totally confused. It was cacophonous. And I realized it was New York cheering for us.
I did not want to go into work today. I couldn’t see anyone else die.
Luckily, it was a better day. I finally weaned a young woman off oxygen. She has a loving husband, who, on the phone, sounds like a jolly, sturdy kind of man. Today, he mentioned something about seeing his wife later today. Huh?
Turns out that every day, he walks the 10 blocks from his apartment to the hospital. He knows where his wife’s second floor room is located, so he stands beneath her window day in and day out. There, positioned in front of red tulips, he talks and jokes with his wife, prays with her and tells her how much he loves her.
More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic. Those hoping for an unemployment check have an unlikely couple to thank — Elizabeth Brandeis, the daughter of the first Jewish Supreme Court justice, and Paul Raushenbush, the son of a prominent theologian, who met at the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1923. As Michael S. Rosenwald reports in The Washington Post, the couple helped conceptualize legislation in the wake of the Great Depression that instituted unemployment benefits. Their key idea, that benefits should be funded enitrely by employers, was adopted as part of the Social Security Act of 1935 and still survives today.
Amid protests at the state capitol, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) extended the state’s state-of-emergency declaration to May 28, going against the legislature’s wishes and without its approval.
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Until next time
But before we part, some recs
Rachel Orr Design editor, The Lily and By the Way
What I’m watching: “Fantastic Fungi,” a stunning documentary about the world of mushrooms and the underground networks of fungi (also known as mycelium).
What I’m listening to: Fiona Apple’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters,” an album she dropped after a 10-year hiatus. I don’t know how it took me so long to listen to her music, but now she’s in heavy rotation.
What I’m making: I’ve been saving the cardboard circles from my pizza boxes and using them to collage. Gather leftover cardboard, paper scraps, scissors and glue, and you’re ready to make your own.