“Are you sure you don’t want it anymore?” The words of my barber, as I struggled to tell him that it was time to remove my beard. I remember when I first decided to start keeping it, for religious purposes, and how it’s been part of my identity for the past five years. Once it was off, I didn’t even recognize the person in the mirror anymore. But it was a sacrifice I had to make in order to wear protective equipment and shield myself from the Coronavirus.
“Are you coming home this weekend? Tell them you need a break, you are stressed.” The text from my lovely mother, who struggled to understand that now was not the time for a break. Even worse, now was not the time to come home. I couldn’t risk exposing my family to Coronavirus, so I sacrificed my time with them altogether. “Did you eat today? Cereal doesn’t count as dinner. Please eat. “The words of my significant other, who couldn’t help but worry. But cereal does count as dinner, I’d reply, when there’s no time to sacrifice for grocery shopping.
“Can you help us see him one last time?” The words of my dying patient’s wife, who had to sacrifice her ability to visit her husband of 45 years due to visitor limitation imposed to stop the spread of Coronavirus. I take my phone to his bedside, video call her, and help them connect. His face lights up as he sees a familiar face for the first time in weeks. But his smile doesn’t last long. He soon realizes why the video call took so long, and why it was only being made then, and why she couldn’t come see him. “Am I going to die?” he asks his wife. “Honey, we love you, and don’t you ever forget it. That will be all doctor, thank you.” I hang up the phone, replace his oxygen mask, and exit the room. A few hours later, I call my patient’s wife once more. Only this time, he wasn’t with me anymore.
“We miss you.” The text from my sister fills my eyes with tears on my way home from another long and emotionally grueling shift. I miss me too. But we’ll stay home. We’ll stay apart. We’ll keep sacrificing everything we used to know and love. Because if we don’t, we may soon have nothing left to sacrifice but ourselves.
Omar Moussa, MD
PGY 2, Internal Medicine