Louisville Medicine Volume 69, Issue 2 | Page 8

NUMBERS AUTHOR Valerie Briones-Pryor , MD
Each year , GLMS invites physicians , residents and students to take part in the Richard Spear , MD , Memorial Essay Contest . This year , we asked our members to write on the topic “ How 2020 changed me : my life and medicine .” 2020 was one for the history books--from a pandemic , to racial injustices , and adjusting to everything in between . We asked you to reflect on questions like what innovations have you had to adopt as a result of 2020 , both in and outside the office ? What changes could you never have anticipated just 12 months ago ? We received many entries , all with members reflecting on the highs and lows of the year and what our new world looks like for them . We hope you enjoy the two winning essays which were judged anonymously and without bias .


NUMBERS AUTHOR Valerie Briones-Pryor , MD

2020 . I look back on 2020 and all I see are numbers : numbers that have no meaning to others , no sequence except for the string in my mind . None add up to make any sense . However , the numbers describe my journey through 2020 . As with every journey , the hope is that by the end of the journey , one is not the same as how she started , but molded by the events within the journey itself . These numbers have become my molds .

One . When talking numbers , one is always a good place to start . One is that one text that changed everything . It is the text I received on March 14th that became the difference between life before COVID and then life with COVID . It was a simple text from my boss that read : “ Hey , can you meet at 0800 at [ my ] office Monday a . m . I know it ’ s short notice but important .” I knew that text was my call to action . I knew that on Monday morning , work life would be different for me , life would be different for my family . COVID had already reached Kentucky by that point , and we had already seen what it had done to other countries and within our own borders . The simple things , like going to the grocery , would not be simple anymore . It just took one text to change my life .
Seventeen . March 17th to be exact . The 17th became a marker for me , especially as the days of the pandemic started to pass . I started counting my days on the COVID unit beginning on March 17th , my first official day running the unit . Those initial months are a blur , except , again for the numbers . 44 – the age of my first COVID patient . Not only was he my first patient with COVID , but he was also my age . I watched him struggle to breathe just by trying to sit on the side of the bed . I stood next to him multiple times a day , in full PPE , both of us feeling helpless and scared , watching him struggle , worried that I would be next . 81 – the age of my first COVID patient whom I lost . She died without her family at her bedside , only me and the nurses to hold her hand . At the time , I knew there would be others , but I had no idea where that number would land .
The days kept ticking by , one month , two months , on and on . My patient numbers began to rise as Kentucky ’ s cases and positivity rate started to climb . Each week , we listened for the numbers , the weekly statistics from local leaders and hospital administration . Treatment options started to come and go – first it was Hydroxychloroquine , then Zithromax . I felt like a medical student all over again , this time being schooled by COVID . I spent hours caring for patients , but with nothing in my arsenal except oxygen and prayers . 24 – the longest stretch of days I worked without a day off . Even my days off , though were not really off from work . Many of my days off were spent trying to process what was happening and trying to catch up with the world outside of the hospital doors .
Three . Three stands for the three names that reminded me that there was a reality outside of COVID – Breonna Taylor , George Floyd , Ahmaud Arbery . Hearing those names , watching the crowds