COVID-19 Update from Dr. Smith: 4/11/20

Each day during the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Craig Smith, Chair of the Department of Surgery, sends an update to faculty and staff about pandemic response and priorities. Stay up to date with us.

Dear Colleagues,

“But Hopes are Shy Birds flying at a great distance seldom reached by the best of Guns” (James Audubon).  Hope may be overhead!  It was in the media wind yesterday, flying above all the bickering over whether epidemiologic modeling is a pragmatic tool or the devil’s work.  In parallel, for the first time in weeks, our institutions began tentative discussions about when and how to begin the ascent toward normal function.  Most concrete of all, at NYP an important epidemiologic yardstick (admissions ÷ discharges + deaths) has been <1.0 for several days, and the COVID+ inpatient census this morning shows the largest decrease yet observed.  Yet everyone is appropriately cautious.  Is this a false summit?  Many mountains have them; if you’ve done much climbing, you’ve stood on one.  Rebounds in Asia are concerning.  Even so, we’re all ready for good news.

My Update yesterday prompted the email below from Jessica, who works in our Department.  Her aunt passed away at Allen Pavilion on Tuesday.  Her mother is intubated in one of our converted ORICUs.  She had to move her 102-year-old grandmother to a nursing facility, because she had been living with her mother and aunt.  Jessica wrote (excerpted with permission): “I am writing this during my anxiety driven insomnia in a hotel room where I am quarantining myself from my children for the next 2 weeks….I sit here feeling as if I betrayed her by leaving, being unable to visit knowing her dementia will not allow her to understand my actions, betrayal of my mother who fights a hard fight without me by her side & betrayal towards my aunt, who is sitting in a truck somewhere as I struggle to make arrangements. & this horrendous feeling of betrayal has me in Dante’s Caina, the 1st ring of the 9th circle of hell for betrayal of my kin.” 

Compared to that, my Updates feel a bit shallow and contrived.  Some things are too real.  But, start with hope, end with hope.  Emily Dickinson certainly knew of James Audubon, who died when she was 21 years old.  “Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul.”  Best known for the first line, I prefer the second.  Hard to reach with Guns.

Craig R. Smith, MD
Chair, Department of Surgery
Surgeon-in-Chief, NYP/CUIMC

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