Spring Hopes Eternal: Spring in the Time of Coronavirus

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”

–Hal Borland
Early spring flowers, Falmouth, Cape Cod, MA

Spring is in the air. It is gradually awakening, even in this little corner of the Northeast, where it is historically slow to emerge. Signs of spring are all around. It’s in the dawn birdsong that doesn’t gently stir awake, but insists on bursting into a raucous celebration of the new day. It’s in the early-blooming flowers that infuse hints and patches of color into the drab grey-brown landscape of the fading winter. The daffodils are blooming now, and the forsythia too, in sunny bright yellow shades that dare you to try not to be happy. It is a typical coastal New England spring.

This spring feels different. There is a cloud shrouding this spring, heavier and more persistent than the fleeting clouds and fog of a typically capricious New England spring, with its March bluster and April showers. This is the cloud of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and its attendant illness COVID-19, spreading globally and around the country, even to this little corner of coastal New England. It has seemed colder, cloudier, and rainier this spring, probably because those are the days that reflect the mood. The sunny days seem like a betrayal, incongruous with this cloud of disruption, fear, pain and grief. This spring is not typical.

Continue reading

In Harm’s Way, the Tradition and Legacy of Medicine

 “There isn’t any such thing as an ordinary life.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery

“Heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary.”Gerard Way

Clouds, Sunset after winter storm, Falmouth, MA

Clouds, Sunset after winter storm, Falmouth, MA

My colleague, Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, is currently on leave from his academic anesthesia practice as well as from his post as Speaker of the House of Delegates for the Massachusetts Medical Society to serve as Lt. Commander Jesse Ehrenfeld, Combat Anesthesiologist in Kandahar, Afghanistan. We all appreciate the sacrifice he is making, putting himself at risk and in harm’s way.

This sacrifice is part of the great tradition of medicine, a tradition that compels physicians into war zones to take care of the injured. It is the same tradition that has us traveling to help treat diseases for which we may not have a cure or even a name yet, or into areas near and far ravaged by natural disasters.

As physicians we imagine that the risks we take are contained in far-flung locations or defined by the time it takes to start the recovery from disaster. Taking these risks is part of our  commitment and calling, our responsibility. These are not every day, ordinary events and circumstances. They are extraordinary, and we rise to those challenges, to be extraordinary ourselves to take care of them. Then life returns to normal.

But what about yesterday, an ordinary crisp sunny winter day in Boston? When at about 11 a.m. a man entered the cardiothoracic clinic at the revered Brigham and Women’s Hospital and  fatally shot surgeon Dr. Michael J. Davidson  before taking his own life. The patients, the doctors, the nurses and staff in the hospital and clinics were in the throes of an ordinary day, no grand events planned in the city, no special holiday.

In short, it was — or should have been — an unremarkable day. Continue reading