In Response to: Dispatch From the ICU

Following up on the letter published in the June/July 2020 issue, I wrote a recent reflection a Massachusetts General Hospital event:

When I've needed strength these past few months, I've looked to the House Staff of Mass General Hospital. Our collective response has inspired. 

Battling COVID has left us with indelible wounds, but also with renewed purpose and connection. We didn’t ask for this, but we didn’t shy away. We stepped up. We were called to serve in different roles and came together with unified objective. Many non-internists and non-intensivists became both overnight. New floors and units were created each day. Residents and nurses who had never met worked together, side-by-side. I led a team of pediatric interns and worked with pediatric nurses as we cared for sick adult patients. I’ve worked on a surge ICU team composed of pulmonology attendings, cardiology fellows, medical residents, surgical ICU nurses and respiratory therapists, and neurology floor nurses and physical therapists.

We’ve felt joy as we’ve seen some (slowly) recover and go back home. We’ve also felt sadness and isolation in unprecedented amounts. We’ve called families who suffer from afar, unable to see their loved ones in the flesh. Until their last breaths. We’ve explained complex decisions, such as resuscitation, intubation, and tracheostomies, by phone. We’ve witnessed intractible injustices and inequalities as vibrant, diverse communities were hit hardest. We sometimes cared for entire families on the same unit. We’ve gone to work fearing for our safety, the safety of our colleagues, and the health and wellness of our loved ones at home. 

Despite all we have witnessed, we’ve refused to become desensitized. We’ve worked together to maintain our collective humanism and enduring spirit. We’ve done so much to keep each other afloat and push each other forward. Though we are returning to new normalcy, we don’t know when this tragedy will be over. But whether weeks, months, or years, from what I have seen, I have no doubt the House Staff of Mass General will weather this storm together.

Vinayak Venkataraman ’11, M.D.
Cambridge, Mass.