Medical Narratives: Stories Shared and Lessons Learned during COVID-19

Medical Narratives: Stories Shared and Lessons Learned during COVID-19

Medical Narratives: Stories Shared and Lessons Learned during COVID-19

By Liliane de Vries

Medical Narratives are a powerful way to comprehend patients’ and caregivers’ perspectives and stimulating change during COVID-19. Stories are the threads that weave our experiences together and allow us to peer into worlds that we may rarely see. Certainly, many experiences surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are shrouded in tragedy, but there is more to be found here. Perspectives shared by caregivers and patients can guide us to better understand each other during this crisis and help us connect to the humanity in healthcare

Today, I want to spotlight the stories of those affected by the pandemic — from the perspective of caregivers as well as those at higher risk.

Story of Devotion and Loss

In a post, Isabella Park details her account of the impact of COVID-19 on 90-year-old Mrs. M. (a nursing home patient) and her husband. 

Before the pandemic, Mrs. M.’s husband “visited her daily, fed her, sang her favourite songs, combed her hair, and kept her company.” However, precautions stemming from the pandemic meant that family members could no longer visit the facility — this included Mrs. M.’s husband.

Shortly after the visits ceased, Mrs. M. “quickly declined cognitively … [and] she also contracted COVID-19.” Isabella ensured that the couple of 67 years could FaceTime daily, so he could continue singing to her. Unfortunately, two months later, Mrs. M. succumbed to her illness.

Isabella’s post shines a light on the impacts of COVID as well as the importance of caregivers acting as the bridge between isolated family members.

Story of Vulnerability and Responsibility

Auz Burger shares her experience as a vulnerable member of the population and her pleas for others to wear masks for her safety.

Due to Auz’s asthma, fibromyalgia, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, contracting COVID is especially dangerous. As a result, Auz is fearful that she might “not survive it … [or] be left with new health conditions” as a result.

Auz further details her frustrations with people not taking the virus seriously or those who believe that the pandemic is “a conspiracy.” For Auz, her health is intimately intertwined with the community’s response to COVID. She explains that “just because you are not seeing me in person doesn’t mean you aren’t risking my life.”

Highly communicable, COVID-19 emphasizes the need for community members to remember that their actions cause unforeseeable ripples that can either protect life or place it at risk.

Story of Burnout and Renewal

Joan Rosegreen (an ED and representative for her facility’s unionized nurses) imparts her experience in managing the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis in Brooklyn, NY.

During the initial impact in Brooklyn, Joan’s “facility was the designated COVID-19 hospital.” As very little was known about the virus, Joan and her colleagues were on edge. The number of patients she cared for ranged from 10–12 a day, and the stress of managing the crisis under duress caused headaches and fatigue.

On March 19, Joan fell ill, spiking a fever. Feeling as if her “world [was] turned upside down”, she had no choice but to stay home and wait three excruciating weeks for her test results, which came back negative. In Joan’s absence, her coworkers that tested positive were removed from the front line, and one of their “beloved and best doctors” tragically lost his life to COVID-19.

Returning to work, Joan still felt physically and emotionally exhausted. However, she gained a renewed sense of hope when discovering that her patient who was intubated for more than three weeks was now extubated.

Your COVID-19 medical narratives

What’s your COVID-19 story? If you feel comfortable, share your own experience of this COVID-19 pandemic.

The Alive in Healthcare team is still providing complimentary support calls to all healthcare providers impacted by COVID-19. Read more here.