I’m sorry that our family wasn’t able to go on our trip, but I have really enjoyed the past few days here at home with you and our family. I know that things are super-weird right now and I appreciate how brave and flexible you have been. The hugs you gave me tonight and the stern directive to wear a mask when I go to work tomorrow suggested that you are also worried. I’m worried too.
As I prepare to go back to work tomorrow, there is something I want you to know. YOU and your dad and your brother and your sister are my priority. I have no idea what the hospital will look like tomorrow. And what it looks like tomorrow will likely be much different than what it looks like the next day, and the day after that. My team and I are preparing to do very hard work. Much harder than the work that we already do (which I didn’t think was possible just a week ago). It is likely that I will be spending long hours at the hospital taking care of very sick people in the coming weeks and months.
10 years ago this spring, when I graduated from medical school, I held up my right hand and took what’s called the Hippocratic Oath. This is a promise to uphold the proud tradition of medicine through science and commitment to humanity. I looked up the actual oath tonight as a reminder of my promise before going back to the hospital tomorrow.
“I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.
Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty.
Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter.
May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”
When I took this oath, I couldn’t have imagined the events of 2020. I had no idea what applying “all measures that are required” might actually look like. Nevertheless, I will uphold my oath. I will continue to tread with care in matters of life and death because, more than ever, that is what is being asked of me and of doctors and nurses all over the world. We will remember our obligations to all human beings because it is the right thing to do.
But, sweet girl, I will always remember my joyous obligation to you as your mother. And so with every step I take at the hospital, and with every decision that is made and conversation that is had, know that when all is said and done, I will come home to you. I may be exhausted and sad, but our love will get us through this.
When you were about two years old, I remember holding you outside of our old house. I was staring intently at your sweet, mesmerizing little face when you pointed upward and exclaimed “there’s the sunshine!” I didn’t have to look away because I was already looking at my very own sunshine. Thank you for being you and lighting up my world.
So, tomorrow as I walk into the unknown, I will continue to do the next right thing and hopefully this will all make sense when we are older. (See what I did there?)
I love you my sweet, precious girl!