RICHARD SPEAR , MD , MEMORIAL ESSAY CONTEST
PRACTICING & LIFE MEMBER CATEGORY 2021 RICHARD SPEAR , MD , MEMORIAL ESSAY CONTEST
gather and march , this was a whole reality that I could not grasp . I was already exhausted from COVID and did not know if I had any more spirit left in me to feel anything else . I already saw firsthand that even though COVID affected everyone , it affected certain populations more than others . 10 – the number of minutes that the medical community kneeled on June 6th for racial justice . I stayed on the COVID floor that day , fighting fires as usual . I remember looking at the clock and wondering if I should go , but struggling that if I did go , was I going for me or because others expected me to ? I went home later that day , seeing the faces of medical students and residents , walking back from their march , holding signs in the air proudly . I drove in silence that day , like I had done many times before and after , too exhausted to stand for anything and too numb to really feel anything .
344 – the number of days I worked on the COVID floor . Those 344 days also include over 700 COVID patients and countless stories . I lost 50 patients in those 344 days , the 27th patient I lost on the day I became the third person in Kentucky to receive the COVID vaccine . Those 50 names , written on a yellow pad of paper on my desk , as well as the past 344 days , haunt me in a way that is indescribable , almost akin to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder .
It is difficult to describe how my life has changed , though I do know it has . I am a much different person ; a much different physician now than I was at the beginning of 2020 . I am more appreciative of the blessings in my life . I started to become comfortable with the uncomfortable . My journey of numbers taught me that I am resilient in the face of adversity , but that I am also human too . 4 – the number of episodes of supraventricular tachycardia I had in 48 hours due to stress . I learned that as much as I appreciated being called a health care hero , that my body was not superhuman .
I learned the lesson that I cannot care for others if I am not well myself , both physically and mentally . 2 – the number of people who kept me grounded during 2020 , my husband and son . My hope is that any resultant change from 2020 has made me not only a better physician , but a better wife and mother .
2020 . I read once that the number 20 in the Bible symbolizes cycles of completeness including periods of waiting , labor and suffering . In medicine , there are diagnoses where the appropriate treatment plan is watchful waiting . Most of my COVID unit days , I spent in watchful waiting , mainly praying that patients would improve but also wondering when the pandemic would end . With the decline in COVID cases and the rise in vaccinations , my days on the COVID unit are finally over and my own healing has begun . Though I am far from complete , I do feel the start of closure to such a traumatic period . My mental exhaustion , like a heavy fog on my mind and heart , is starting to lift and I am looking through the fog to find my place in this new world where this journey has taken me . With new perspective , I am looking to answer those questions that have lingered , such as “ What do I stand for ?”
2020 will always be about my journey of numbers . I am hopeful that 2021 is only about one : me .
Numerology Center . ( n . d .) Biblical Numerology – 20 . Numerology . Center . http :// numerology . center / biblical _ numbers . php
Dr . Briones-Pryor is a hospitalist with UofL Health .
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