One of the ordinary challenges of being an ER doctor and a single mother is finding childcare for my kids when I work overnight. Luckily, my parents live nearby and will often watch my children. In pre-Covid days, my folks and I had an early morning, post-ER shift ritual: after dropping my kids off at school, my mom and dad would head to a favorite restaurant. A few minutes later I’d stumble in, puffy-eyed and foul-mouthed from being up all night. Over egg sandwiches and pastries, we would catch up on family news and current events. …

We are all different people and the world a different place than a year ago.

I saw the pandemic coming from a long way off. As an ER doctor and single mother, threads of the developing story that one part of my brain missed, another part noticed, and soon, almost in spite of myself, I was tracking case counts on cruise ships and in other countries — growing more and more certain every day that it was not a question of if, but when, the pandemic would come to my door.

But the thing that really kicked me into high gear was an afternoon in February 2020 when I heard Nancy Messonnier, director of the…

Knowledge about what it is like to get the vaccine may help allay concerns.

Image by torstensimon from Pixabay

During medical school, I lived one summer in Ghana and spent a day helping a nurse give vaccinations to children in a remote part of the country. We set off in the dark and had traveled several hours when our driver pulled off the dirt road. “Why did we stop?” I asked, knowing we were still hours from our destination.

“Wait a minute,” the nurse explained. And then, as the sun came up, a young woman carrying a baby on her back emerged from the trees. She unwrapped the child, the nurse readied immunizations, and then injected the baby. …

Dealing with grieving families takes a toll on physicians, but watching patients die alone is worse. Until Covid it was also rare.

The other night at work, I pronounced a patient dead from Covid. He was a man in his sixties who was being treated for the disease on the medical floor. He had been getting steroids and oxygen, remdesivir and IV fluid, when his lungs stopped working. He had signed a “do not resuscitate” order when he entered the hospital and so we did not intubate him. When his body could no longer outrun the virus, the nurses did everything they could to make him comfortable and then we let him go.

I was seeing patients in the ER when one…

An ER doctor’s meditation on loss in the time of Covid

I spent the day before my birthday this year in a long ER shift. By the time I saw my last patient, checked out a few responsibilities to the oncoming ER doc, and wrote my last note, I had been in the hospital for almost 15 hours. I removed my PPE, showered in the physician call room, and walked to my car in the dark.

Driving out of the crowded parking lot, I turned on the car radio and then turned it off. After the chaos of the ER, music was too noisy. And with reports of rising Covid case…

A talk for A Light on the Hill Ceremony, Utah State University, 1 September 2020. Watch the recorded broadcast on YouTube here

Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak at A Light on the Hill.

I am a mother and an ER doctor, but not so many years ago, I was a USU college student just like you, looking ahead, wondering what college and the rest of my life would be like. It is an honor to join you as you consider all these questions and embark on a new academic year.

The theme of the Light on…

Details about individual patients have been changed to protect their identities. Descriptions of Covid are exactly as I witnessed them.

I was still waking up at the beginning of an early-morning ER shift, when an ambulance page sounded over the radio in truncated medical jargon: “Elderly nursing home patient.” Static. “Difficulty breathing.” More static. “Poorly responsive. Full code.”

“Could it be Covid?” the charge nurse asked.

“Maybe,” I responded. “Better get ready.”

It was good that we did. When the patient arrived, she was in extremis-medical terminology for trying really hard to die. She had an oxygen saturation level of…

A childhood injury upended by coronavirus.

A couple of weeks ago, while we were hiking on a secluded trail near our home, my son fell and cut his leg. We had stopped to eat a snack and drink some water, when he couldn’t resist the urge to climb a nearby tree. He was only a few feet up when he slipped and fell, snagging his left shin on an errant tree branch as he tumbled down.

I heard him cry, and saw him hanging onto a higher branch with shaking arms, unable to pull himself up and unhook his leg…

This morning, I wake up to discover that it snowed overnight-a mid-April reminder that winter has not yet run its course. Daffodils bend under the weight of snow, and two or three inches of fresh-fallen stuff covers lawns that are just greening up.

It’s cold, but the dog is eager to go. I clear the sleep from my eyes, and we begin to wind our way through streets that are just barely light. …

My paternal grandfather joined the National Guard in 1930, during early years of the Great Depression. He was a young man from a farming community, and an oldest child, who was trying to make his way in a world with few jobs and little money. Joining the guard gave him work, and a steady paycheck. A few years later, he met and married my grandmother. Not long after, my father was born.

By 1941, when the United States joined World War II, my grandfather was nearly 30, and was a master sergeant in his local National Guard unit. He had…

Marion Bishop

Marion Bishop is a writer and ER doctor who practices in the Intermountain West.

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