Maureen Taylor is a physician assistant in infectious diseases at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto.
It’s so bizarre for me to be working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as a physician assistant. I was the CBC’s National Medical Reporter in 2003 when SARS hit Toronto, and that single story pretty much occupied my time for three months straight. As a medical journalist, SARS was fascinating and exhilarating, even as I empathized with the patients and healthcare workers who were infected and died. That experience changed my life in numerous ways, and probably inspired my midlife career change.
This time, I’m not just an armchair observer of this new, and much more contagious emerging disease, I am caring for patients with COVID-19. The armchair was more comfortable. The bedside is – hard to describe. Thankfully, as of this post, our COVID-19 patients aren’t seriously ill. But to borrow a Game of Thrones analogy I’m stealing from Twitter, we’re like the various Houses of Westeros that have gathered at Winterfell to do battle with the White Walkers. We know there is evil coming. We just can’t see its face yet.
Too gloomy? I don’t mean to be. I work with a team of super-smart, super-supportive people. But we’re already a bit tired from weeks of preparing for the inevitable onslaught of very ill patients. We’re struggling with everything from the evolving science of experimental treatments…and the potential shortages of masks and gowns that will keep us from getting sick ourselves…to the only question that will matter as we look at the daily totals of sick, very sick, and dead: Is the curve flattening? Are we there yet?