Almost two years ago, I moved to New York City to experience the greatest city in the world, and it did not disappoint. I never expected that during my second year here, our lives would change dramatically. On the week when we had our first COVID-19 case, our hospital began to prepare for the surge by issuing travel restrictions. I remember being so upset that I had to cancel my trips—this feels like a lifetime ago.
Now, on the way to work, I walk on empty streets. Loud, honking cars are replaced by ambulance sirens, and the quiet neighborhoods are eerie. It’s somber to walk from the train station to our hospital. One recent day, this walk allowed me to think about a patient with Down Syndrome who lost his father from COVID-19. The father was my patient’s sole caregiver, and the patient now had no other family or friends. I wonder about what his future holds. I also think about families with loved ones sick in the hospital but unable to see them in person due to the nature of this cruel virus. As we continue to witness death and unfortunate complications due to COVID, the hospital atmosphere has been extremely sad. Trucks outside are parked as a temporary morgue. My fellow healthcare workers on the frontline are working as hard as they can while they also creatively come up with ways to protect themselves as we deal with the low supply of PPE.
I am thankful for the messages I get from people, including funny memes and packages from friends and family. Who would have thought I’d be excited to receive masks, goggles, and face shields in the mail? It is also heartwarming to hear strangers applaud for healthcare workers every night at 7:00 PM throughout New York City. This pandemic made me realize that what matters most is to show up, whether ready or not, to help others surrounded by people with the same goal to help lessen the suffering. This is our duty. At the end of the day, missing trips and cancelling plans do not compare to how important it is to be able to serve others.
I am optimistic that the city that never sleeps will be back on its feet again. When this happens, you will find me enjoying the city skyline view from a rooftop bar with a cocktail and thinking about this time that made me feel proud to be a physician in New York City.