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American Pandemic

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

This is part of the Medical Humanities series on Op-Med, which showcases creative work by Doximity members. Do you have a creative work related to your medical practice that you’d like to share? Send it to us here.

There’s a 4-month-old baby who’s never met her grandparents,
And a grandfather dead who never said goodbye.
And my parent is unwell overseas, but I can’t care for him in his older years
As he took care of me in my younger ones.
As I owe him.

My grandmother just took us to Disney World,
And my grandmother is in a refrigerated morgue truck.
I don’t know anyone affected.
But I’ve lost so many family members.
It’s not bad — just a cold.
Unless you struggle against a beeping ventilator.
Unless you feel terrible for months.

I tell you, that vaccine is poison.
I would give anything to find a dose.
In my country wearing a mask is a sign of respect, she said.
If everyone would just wear a mask.
Nobody’s making me wear a mask!

I could lose millions in the stock market.
And I could lose my house. My food. My job.
I’ve avoided crowds for months and months.
And I’m going to parties and celebrations.
Weddings of 300,
Deaths all alone.
We’ll just go to the family property to isolate;
The beach or the mountains?
And we’ll just move all three families under one roof.
It’ll be OK.
There are shelters.

Private schools and public schools. Luxury store deliveries,
And food lines and soup kitchens.
Haves and have-nots.
I won’t socially distance.
What do you mean, 14 days?
I can stand close to you,
Please back off.
Work from the office, work from home.
Please give me work. I need work.
This year is like a character litmus test, she said.
We’ll teach the kids to do the right thing.
But what’s the right thing?

If only we could come together, see eye to eye,
Maybe we could end this thing.
Yet it divides us. Like everything divides us.
And the division grows,
And the rift in the family,
And the broken community.
And the brick and mortars that didn’t make it,
And the restaurants shut down,
Each one a broken dream.

And is this virus even real? he asked.
Whom do we trust?
I would never trust,
You can’t trust.
The science says
The truth is,
But that can’t be true.
My echo chamber agrees with me.
Everyone agrees in the echo chamber.

An ice bucket of hatred in the comments of the post,
And ice packs for the fever that will not break,
Until we all break.
Until there are no more beds, and there is no more oxygen and no time left for you.
It only affects those people.
Not my people, not your people,
Just those people.
I don’t know anyone affected,
As the health care worker changes hot blue plastic gowns and face shields and
rebreathes her breath the whole shift.
I’m not changing my lifestyle,
While the doctor prays for the family to answer the call,
And for the wifi to work,
So the FaceTime goodbye can happen before death.

Over 400,000 dead but I don’t believe that, do you?
They’re making that up.
It wouldn’t be me,
But then it is me.
And the virus, it turns out,
Is a living organism
That doesn’t care about politics
Or socioeconomic status
Or heed social norms.
It just wants to survive.
We all want to survive,
So can we unite,
So we can live,
So we can breathe,
So we can heal.

What was your inspiration? Did other creative works, if any, influence your creation of this piece?

My inspiration for this piece was wondering how there could be so many different perspectives on this global pandemic we are all experiencing. How could we all be living in the same era yet see it so differently?

How long have you been doing this activity? What got you started?

I started writing as a creative outlet in 2020. It happened as the pace of my life slowed down with the COVID-19 pandemic and I had time to actually process my feelings and thoughts and get them down on paper.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your involvement in or views on arts in medicine?

I think the arts are so important in medicine. Artistic expression helps all of us get outside ourselves and appreciate another person’s perspective.

Julie is a pediatrician and mother of three who started writing a parenting blog in 2020. 

Image: Lightspring / shutterstock

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