In April, I was rotating on the trauma service, where we treat patients who may have been in serious motor vehicle crashes and are often confused and scared. COVID completely changed the trauma bay. Patients who can’t answer our screening questions are presumed to have COVID. Supplies are now kept outside the room to avoid contamination. You have people running around wearing N95 masks, and you’re trying to communicate with faces you’ve never met before. You can’t hear each other well. COVID adds confusion and complexity to an already chaotic environment.
I have used the same N95 mask since March 10. The N95 small mask is the toughest mask to find in the hospital. I have the one that I was given and have not given it up, because you can’t easily get another. You put your mask in a bag and shoot UV rays through to clean it. We’re trying to conserve PPE, minimize waste.
My bigger fear is that I’m an asymptomatic carrier. I am lucky enough to be healthy. I don’t have comorbidities and am still active. I’ve stayed away from my parents, who I’m very close to, and they’re only a 45-minute drive away. It’s been challenging for my family.
UMass started their preparations very early, to the point where it felt like an overreaction; but in doing so, we have been well-prepared. Still, I worry about the emergency cases: When someone gets very sick, we may not have the available resources to put them in the safest environment for treatment.
I was part of a leadership program for student athletes at Amherst. I remember one speaker told us to “be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” That advice is so necessary for surgical residents redeployed to areas of the hospital where we never expected to be. But at the end of the day, our jobs are still the same: We’re trying to help patients get stabilized and get them out of the hospital and back into the world.
Dr. Stephanie Clegg ’12, orthopedic surgery resident, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester