'I'm scared'

Medical resident shares coronavirus observations from the front lines
Guest Opinion

I am a family medicine resident, currently working nights admitting sick patients to the hospital. Covid-19 is just starting to hit our area. I don’t know if it’s sleep deprivation or 26-week pregnancy hormones, but last night when I was getting ready for work I cried in the shower. I’m scared.

I’m scared for my homeless patients, many of whom have underlying heart and lung disease. They have no safe place to practice social distancing. If Covid-19 hits their homeless shelter, I’m worried many of them may die.

I’m scared for my elderly and nursing home patients, who are currently isolated from their family members for their own safety. I’m scared for my own grandma. I lost two grandpas last year and I don’t want to lose her too.

I’m scared for my OB patient, who is in labor without her husband because he has a cough and was forced to leave the hospital but is not “sick enough” to get tested.

I’m scared for my co-residents who will be overworked and underpaid while fighting on the front lines of this pandemic. 

I’m scared for my attendings, many of whom are older than 60 and putting themselves at risk in order to protect us.

I’m scared for the nurses, respiratory therapists, PCTs, phlebotomists, emergency medical crews, etc. who have even more direct patient contact than physicians do but are brave enough to continue to do their jobs without hesitation.

I’m scared for my mom, who is a rural family physician, which means she has to solve Covid problems in the clinic, hospital, ER, and nursing home. She is the type that will never stop caring for her patients and community - even when she runs out of PPE. 

I’m scared for my sister who has asthma and might not have access to her albuterol inhaler due to an inevitable nationwide shortage.

I’m scared for my husband’s students who are no longer able to go to school, even though school might be the safest, warmest place for some of them to be. 

And, although this is selfish, I’m scared for my 26-week-old unborn child. He/she is not yet ready to come into this world but may be at increased risk if I get a severe case of Covid-19.

So if you don’t have a good reason to practice social distancing, please feel free to use one of mine. Stop listening to Facebook and a reality TV star who happens to be our president. Instead, listen to scientists and physicians and STAY HOME. Please understand, despite what Trump says, things won’t magically be better by Easter and we are in this for the long haul.

I get it. It’s hard to focus on the future right now when there is so much of the future that is unknown. And yes, it sucks to not be able to leave your house to travel or shop or play sports or go to prom. But the decisions you make today will affect our entire world for years and years to come.

Also, to the anti-vaxxers, this is what disease looks like when no one has immunity. You’re welcome for protecting you from several other (scarier and deadlier) diseases via herd immunity. Please use this time to reconsider and get your immunizations updated.


Kat Dahl, daughter of Mark Dahl and Dr. Diane Kennedy, is completing her residency at the Sioux Falls Family Medicine Program, working at both Avera and Sanford hospitals. She has signed with Sanford Luverne where she’ll practice in 18 to 24 months. She lives in Brandon, South Dakota, with her husband, Brooks Maurer, who teaches in Luverne. This information originally appeared on her Facebook page.

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