Writing usually comes easy to me. Some people can do a neck dissection in 30 minutes. Others build amazing rapport with patients after just five minutes of interaction. We have colleagues who have the hands of a jeweler when performing a stapedectomy, and others who have the courage to face down a 12-hour surgery on a sick patient. Our field is filled with amazing people, each with their own particular superpower. I like to think mine is writing.
But these past few weeks have been hard for me, and I have been unsure of myself, struggling to find words and nearly begging out of doing my monthly editorial. And although I’m fortunate to have been healthy, these crazy times of COVID life have taken their toll—no proven treatment, no definite vaccine, higher unemployment numbers, re-opening plans that change by the day. Watching the new COVID-positive numbers daily go up and down like the stock market, with no positive trend in sight. Financial pressures at work. Financial pressures at home. Stress over adequate PPE. Stress over wearing that PPE. Stress over how to take care of patients. Stress over getting infected. Stress over bringing home that infection to my wife and boys.
It’s a lot to handle. And the worst part about this, especially for us as surgeons who like to fix things and make it all better, is that there’s very little we can do that we know is going to absolutely work. And that loss of control, more than anything else, is sapping my superpower.
Every superhero movie has a similar story arc. Superhero shows off his/her power. Something happens that diminishes or takes that power away. Superhero learns to acknowledge that he/she needs help. Support comes in the form of friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Superhero embraces that help and becomes a better person. Superpowers come back stronger than ever, and he/she saves the world.
I think we’re all somewhere in the middle of that story arc. What we do won’t always be right. We won’t be in control in a pandemic. But we all need to rely on our friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Commiserate with each other. Seek out different opinions. Show vulnerability as well as strength. We will come out of this as better people, and our superpowers will come back stronger than ever. Thank you for being my support network; I hope I can return the favor.
Looking forward to talking next month.