The Anxiety Around COVID-19 and My Heart Transplant
I feel stuck. I am stuck in between being a fearless Emergency Room physician ready to tackle this deadly virus with my colleagues and an immunosuppressedheart transplant recipient in the shadows of a global pandemic.
We just don't know
The truth is that we don't know much about this virus - we don't know how it is going to act in transplant patients (the few cases we have seen have had no complications, which is excellent news), we don't know about its long-term effects, and we don't know if we are appropriately preparing for what's to come.
We have seen what the virus has done to other countries, like China and Italy. Thousands of people - young and old - have already died. Every day, we hear about more deaths. We hear about ventilator shortages and unexpected fatalities and that we, as an unprepared nation, are about to get there as well. "We are just days behind Italy." I can't tell you how many times I have heard that phrase just today.
I want to hear some good news.
I want someone to tell me that everything is going to be okay.
But we just don't know.
And that's where I stand right now.
Immunosuppression and healthcare
If it's not the immunosuppression that's going to kill me, it is my status as a healthcare worker. In fact, I have heard about more healthcare worker deaths than I have about heart transplant recipient deaths. Can you believe that?!
I check the scientific data daily. Heart disease, heart failure, hypertension all put you at risk for complications from COVID-19.1 But I click on more links. I look at more data. I search and search for more answers. It looks like young, healthy people are at risk, too. We just don't know.
I have come to terms with it
All of this ambivalence and "being in limbo"... I wish I knew how to feel during this time.
But I have come to terms with it. Yesterday, I read somewhere that it's okay if you don't know how to feel right now. It's okay to be anxious, afraid. I think all of us are going through our own struggles. All of us are at some sort of increased risk of infection or complication (most likely because of our hearts). And even those of us who aren't - well, we technically still are.
All in this together
We can take the appropriate precautions and we can hope for the best. I currently live in Philadelphia, PA and am happy with what our city has been trying to do as far as social distancing, closing down bars and restaurants, encouraging people to work from home. I was working until last week, but have since then temporarily stopped and will be doing some "telemedicine" shifts in the meantime. I am grateful for a supportive family and amazing friends who virtually "hang out" with me on a nightly basis, just so that I don't go crazy.
Most importantly, I find comfort in knowing that we are all in this together. I have faith in our system and I hope that we get through this, learn from it, and grow as a country, as people.
Do you use exercise to help manage your heart failure?