My Covid Epitaph

If I do not survive Covid

Please note the hopes we shaped before

The concerts, hikes and family feasts

Still on schedule, still in store.

 

I can write my colleagues’ tributes now

I hope you will be flattered,

How you toiled, co-authored, supported staff.

You smiled when it mattered.

 

But we will die. I’m sorry, friend,

That for us it could be

Sharply, while we labor on

Do you think that’s as it should be?

 

In the hallways, exam rooms, and clinics

Doctoring amid pain and tears

Shared mission, on-call nights, holding,

Kind gravitas calming our fears.

 

What I left of me at the hospital

Created a void we sensed elsewhere

Keying our door, scratching sweet Maggie

In my lap, iPhone, my comfy chair.

 

They bravely passed with no regrets.

We salute them now

We loved, respected and mourn them

But whom did I fail and how?

Michael F. Bierer, MD, MPH, FASAM is an internist and addictions specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project. Dr. Bierer is a member of the Massachusetts General Hospital Addiction Consultation Team and faculty of the Addiction Fellowship. At Massachusetts General Hospital, he is part of a large primary care practice that has been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Guilt Does Not Go Away: A Physician’s Tribute to Elephant Mothers

By Maha Mahdavinia

It started almost from the moment my son was born, after I held that precious little breathing miracle of life in my arms and he stopped crying right away. I was filled with joy and love, as if beautiful, peaceful music was playing in my ears. I wanted to hold him all the time and never leave him. Then I remembered: My maternity leave was only six weeks. All of a sudden, the music stopped. It was replaced by a gnawing pain in my belly. Not from the unexpected ruptures of birth — I couldn’t care about those less at that moment. The pain came from guilt. In six weeks I would have to leave my baby every day, from very early in the morning until six or seven at night, when I came back from the hospital. I was a medical resident, and my work hours were long and uncompromising. As I sat in the recovery room of the maternity ward, my mind turned from awe and wonder to anguish and doubt. What was I thinking having a baby? I was so busy with work, and my job was very stressful. Surely I wouldn’t be a good mother.

Life went on, but the guilt did not leave me. It just changed shape, then doubled when we had our second child. It became sharper any time they fell and I wasn’t there; when they got sick or misbehaved; when they were late to school and I thought I should have pushed them to get up earlier; on the mornings when I was in hurry to get to work and had to raise my voice or give them lectures in the car. Those times the guilt crawled all over me and took control of my day.

At times I thought I should have quit residency, but then I asked myself: What about my other responsibilities to society? I take care of children with severe allergies, asthma and immunodeficiency – that work is also important. If I had quit residency, would I even be a better mother?Read More »