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ICU physician: What I am willing to do to fight COVID-19

Physician Jeffrey Munson: “Rather than saying what I think everyone else should do, I want to say out loud what I am willing to do.” (Photo: Getty Images)

A friend of mine in our Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) today asked me for some good news about COVID-19. Anything. His question made me appreciate how much we all want and need something good to center on, and how little there is to share.

I am tired. I am frustrated. I am sad. And in the midst of this, it sometimes feels like all I ever see is people talking about what other people should do to make things better. I don’t have good news, but I can try to change the last part. Rather than saying what I think everyone else should do, I want to say out loud what I am willing to do.

I will wear my mask. Sometimes to protect me, always to protect you. I will get my third shot. And my fourth, and my fifth if it comes to that. Because in my world of million-dollar technology, this shot is still the most effective way to keep people alive.

I will come to work every day and take care of anyone who is sick in my unit. I don’t care if they are vaccinated, unvaccinated, rich, poor, Black, white, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, or independent. I will put on whatever mask, face shield, gown, and gloves I need to come to their bedside and help. I will learn as much as I can so that when you are sick, I can promise we are doing everything that can be done to save your life.

I will support my peers in the MICU in any way I can. Because, like me, they are tired, they are frustrated, and they are sad. And because they are not only the front line; they are the last line separating the sick from the dead.

I will treat everyone in my care with compassion because no one deserves what COVID-19 does. And for those who cannot survive, I will do everything I can to ensure that they do not suffer, and I will grieve their loss.

This is my part to play, and I accept it. I accept it because it is what I can do in a time when the need for doing is so great. And I accept it because I stood in front of my family, my peers, and my community and promised that I would care for the sick.

Jeffrey C. Munson, MD, is medical director of the MICU at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. This essay was first published by the New Hampshire Bulletin.

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