As a doctor, as I mentioned in my last post, I still go to work in this time of social isolation. For those of you that don’t know, I’m a pediatric hospitalist. I see kids in the emergency room, in the delivery room and on the pediatric ward. At work right now, April 3 2020, things are rapidly evolving as the hospital sees more and more sick adults and we continue to manage kids and do our best to keep them out of the hospital. Weirdly, work is not very busy right now. I work odd hours, nights and weekends, so even when the world is full throttle, the days of the week only matter to me inasmuch as they matter to my patients and you. There is a funny meme out there about the self-isolation-work-from-home life that goes something like “Today is Tuesday, or as I like to call it now, Day.” That’s sort of how I always feel, especially after a night shift or after spending the entire weekend in the hospital. I feel little disoriented but mostly fine. All this to say, I spend many weekdays at home and my usual life doesn’t have much of a rhythm, even without a pandemic.
So this is to give you an idea of my typical Monday, or Tuesday, or, as I like to call it, Day (that I am not working).
I set an alarm for whatever time is 8 hours from when I fell asleep. When I wake up, I look at my phone, sadly. Not that I’m sad when I do it, I’m just annoyed at myself that I do. So it’s sad. I check my email, check some texts and lately I check the NY Times and Twitter for any late-breaking coronavirus news. I look at the weather and decide based on my day and the temperature variation throughout the day, if or when I will go for a run or walk outside.
I make myself breakfast – my daily egg and decaf cup of coffee. Rachel, my lovely roommate and now self-isolation buddy, is also working from home, manning the Tufts University admissions office from our dining table. It’s nice to have a self-isolation buddy. We share silly things we find on the internet, and watch shows together at lunch and dinner time (we just finished The Leftovers – not a cooking show). The most important part about not having a real schedule is always sticking to mealtime. Like the meals in a transcontinental flight, they keep you and your fellow passengers oriented and on some sort of schedule, and help you avoid the disorganization of time passing without you noticing. The hope is that when we all come back together, we will have all been on the same meal schedule, and will be able to pick up where we left off once again.
The time between breakfast and dinner lately consists of phone meetings related to the podcast I help produce – Las Doctoras Recomiendan— and another coronavirus project we are developing, stay tuned! I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the virus, writing and editing and learning new words in Spanish. I’ve also been working on the Las Doctoras Recomiendan website to create an easy-to-navigate content of the stuff we have developed already. Over 40 episodes! Also stay tuned for that launch date. On my to-do list is to check my work emails (I have two accounts) to see what the latest COVID case count is at each hospital, what the latest PPE-saving protocol is (currently, we are using N95 masks for 5 days in a row, and the pediatric service at my hospital has moved to a smaller unit to make room for more sick adult patients on our old unit). I usually have one or two educational web conferences I have missed or slept through during the week about COVID and kids, so I catch up on those. Then, on a good day, I will go for a run and listen to a medical education podcast or a podcast about a movie I just saw. I just finished Godfather 1 and 2, so I am working on those podcasts.
The latest thing for us single-no-kids people (but also everyone I think) are FaceTime or Zoom calls with anyone and everyone. Last week I had one scheduled just about every night, reconnecting with old residency friends, old med school friends, high school friends. I even hosted a virtual book club! This last book I chose was a little too depressing for everyone given the global pandemic (it was about a gay Vietnamese-American poet and his relationship with his mother) so not a lot of people finished it, but that’s ok. This week I haven’t had any zoom calls. I think the novelty may have worn off a bit, and it was actually a little too much socializing for me last week.
After a call, I watch a TV show or movie with Rachel and we talk about how weird our lives are right now and our plans for her isolation 30th birthday next week (it will involve dressing up and maybe putting on make up). Last Friday I made us piña coladas. Something different, something to mark the passage of time from week to weekend. I will do the same tonight.
Then I go to my room and read my New Yorker magazine – which has been all about the coronavirus recently, and I ask Alexa to set an alarm for 8 hours from now, and go to sleep.
Somehow, the day goes quickly. I look at this summary and think I should have time for much more in my day. Things I do but did not account for in my recap– texting with family and friends, spending time scrolling through social media, playing my guitar, showering, doing dishes. Everything, right now, seems to take no time and all the time. My goal this week is to spend less time on screens, more time on socially distant walks and on the phone with family and friends. It’s easy to go an entire day without ever going outside, especially when it snowed a few morning ago, and right now it’s quite blustery and gray outside. As a single person, my usual life can be a bit of a self-quarantine, but I get to dictate my level of socialization. It’s hard to believe that this particular experimentation with self-quarantine began March 11, when I returned from NYC, 3 weeks ago this past Wednesday.
I’m working this weekend. Or as I like to call it, my two-day work week.