Local Doctor Shares Stresses, Hopes From The COVID-19 Front Lines

Local Doctor Shares Stresses, Hopes From The COVID-19 Front Lines

11:12am Apr 01, 2020
Wake Forest Baptist Health emergency entrance in Winston-Salem. DAVID FORD/WFDD

The coronavirus pandemic has required everyone in our society to make sacrifices. Perhaps nowhere is the pressure being felt more acutely than in emergency rooms, where rising numbers of infected patients are being admitted.  

Mary Claire O'Brien works in the emergency department of Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, where she's also professor of emergency medicine. She spoke with WFDD’s David Ford about how health care professionals are handling the stress, and what gives them hope.

Interview Highlights

How has the planning been going so far?

It's been inspirational really to see the level of enthusiasm and commitment and cooperation amongst the health care professionals across different institutions — multi-disciplinary teams of people trying to work. And what has been inspirational is not just the amount of time and effort and enthusiasm, but also the degree of flexibility and responsiveness that's been required. Because as this pandemic has unfolded in different parts of the country, we continue to learn more. What I'm really seeing is stamina amongst the health care workers who are trying to respond to this. 

What else keeps you optimistic? 

I have confidence in the American people. I really do. And I have confidence not just in the doctors and nurses and health care workers and researchers and even the politicians across the aisle, but in people who perform our city services – the fire rescue and the law enforcement and the postal workers and the folks in the grocery store who are packaging and delivering our food. You know, I think everybody wants to buckle down and do their part. One of the things that's the hardest in a situation like this is that your part might be to stay at home and homeschool your kids or to stay home and watch Netflix or to work in your garden. And it doesn't feel heroic, but that is what we are called to do.

Do you have any ongoing worries or concerns? 

I think like everyone else in a situation like this, I have a little bit of anticipation fatigue. And, you know, you keep waiting for the I don't know — for the train to come down the track — and you're not sure, 'Is it here yet?', or 'When's it coming?'. And that can be a little bit wearying.  And for me, anyway, the key to it is you just do your job every day and then you rest and then you get up and then you do your job again and then you rest and then you get up and you do your job again. You just keep calm and wash your hands. 

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here. WFDD wants to hear your stories — connect with us and let us know what you’re experiencing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.

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