Critical Care Physician
Professor of Anesthesia
and Critical Care Medicine
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
and the University of Toronto
This essay is part of our new series, Flattened By the Curve, which features the voices of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, and others on the front lines against COVID-19. For information on how to submit, click here.
I know you haven’t felt the touch of another human being in many weeks, except the skin of your patients through your gloves. And you don’t know when you ever will again.
You head home, thinking about what food you have the time and energy to make before collapsing into bed, because there’s no one else to stock the fridge or cook the next meal.
You come home to a cold and dark home, because everyone is so sick and you ended up staying late, and now the heat has already gone off for the night and there was no one to leave a light on for you.
You strip down and take a shower every time you come off a shift, and there is no one to do the laundry for you, so the dirty clothes sit there in a big heap on the floor, with the pile getting larger every day.
You look at your kitchen and see dishes stacked in the sink, and you don’t have the energy to do them.
The mail is piling up and all you can do is shove it aside.
The floor is starting to get gritty underfoot, and you don’t have the energy to sweep.
You don’t have anyone to worry about infecting when you get home. And that makes it even harder.
I know because I too live alone, with dishes in the sink and clothes on the floor and a pile of bills in the corner.
But we are not alone;
my grateful neighbors watch to see when my car is back in the driveway and leave still-warm lasagna at my door;
my coworkers care that I am there with them, making sure I’ve had coffee and asking “you okay?” and offering a smile;
our patients feel our touch through that glove;
and we are the only precious link between our patients and their families, alone in their own homes.
Hannah Wunsch is a critical care doctor at Sunnybrook Hospital and a Professor of Anesthesia and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Toronto. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Critical Care Organization and Outcomes and is currently working on a book on the birth of intensive care medicine.