A loud thud wakes me up at 2 a.m. What follows are the cries of my four-month-old daughter who was sleeping in her crib beside my bed. I look to my left to see if my wife has awaken from the noise but she’s not there. Her side of the bed is empty.
I yell out her name. No response. My heart was beating fast and my eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness of the room, I find her laying on the floor near the crib. I quickly rush to her side. Thoughts of the worst-case scenario race through my head: cardiac arrest, a brain bleed or some type of shock. I put my hand to her wrist to check for a pulse, shake her as I call out her name and make sure she is breathing.
She slowly wakes up very groggily. She feels warmer than usual and looks very pale, but she begins to talk and gets up from the floor without assistance. I feel relieved at her waking up, but a sense of dread starts to permeate through my mind about the ever-looming shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Later that day, my children begin having runny noses, cough, and fevers. Shortly after, I start to feel chills throughout my body, and I knew my worst fear had come true: I brought the virus to my family. I had failed to protect them.
I called my attending to let him know what was going on. I felt so embarrassed because, not only had I failed to protect my family, I had let the team down in the middle of the surge.
However, the embarrassment soon turned into comfort, as they told me not to worry and to take care of my family. I received phone calls from all the attendings at the VA Hospital, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and at Ben Taub Hospital offering their support, food and whatever help I needed.
My co-fellow, Dr. Salem, volunteered to cover for me while I was out and my associate program director, Dr. Narendra, sent us cookies and toys to make the fevers and the malaise pass a little easier. We were so worried about being sick and alone in Houston, since we had moved to the city only a year ago and our family was thousands of miles away in Honduras –but it turns out we have a family here within the Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
After recovering, as I walked back into the halls of the ICU and saw my patient list for the day, I was struck by how blessed my family and I were. The names on the list could have easily been ours. We were lucky to have only had a mild course of the disease. We were nursed back to health with chicken soup, acetaminophen and the support we received from Baylor.
When I tell my story, this question undoubtedly pops up: “Don’t you get tired of doing this?” I always hear the words of Captain America echoing in my head, “I can do this all day!”
-By Dr. Orlando Garner, fellow and physician in the Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine