COVID-19 Update from Dr. Smith: 4/28/20

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,

Today will be judged a beautiful day, marked by a Blue Angels/Thunderbirds fly-over to honor COVID-19 responders.  One of only a few nice days this month.  Cold, rainy, windy, and gray has been the standard for April, as if acting out “cruelest” in charades.  A convenient kind of weather to shroud our morgues and match our moods.  I gather the weather was similar on Sunday in Charlottesville, where my parents live, and where Dr. Lorna Breen took her own life.  Dr. Breen was the medical director of the emergency department at Allen Pavilion, which has been a particularly nasty forward position in our war against coronavirus.  She was the ultimate COVID-19 responder and saved many lives.  A terrible loss that passeth all understanding.

Nothing prevented today from dawning sunny and bright.  Lately something prevents me from surrendering completely to the flowers and odors and breezes and sunshine of spring.  I can write it but can’t quite feel it.  As if I wear invisible PPE, donned against almost imperceptible but constant menace, that raises the threshold of comfort necessary for surrender.  Or is this simply a truth that’s revealed in times like these—that embedded in the middle of everything is the cold hard elegance of a Nature that doesn’t care.  We project beauty onto it, while Nature grinds away in pursuit of self-perpetuation.  Flowers dress up to attract pollinators.  Pollinators feed the queen, who makes more pollinators.  Processes as cold, calculating, and mechanical as SARS-CoV-2 attaching to ACE2 receptors in my respiratory epithelium.  But this too shall pass, dissociation will fade, and summer will surely come.  Hamlet was right: “What a piece of work is a man!  [or woman!]  How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty….in apprehension how like a god!”  Granted, “quintessence of dust” awaits us all, but between now and then we will figure this out, and kick COVID’s grubby little ass.  For Lorna and everyone else.

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

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