Pandemic musings from a radiologist.
The pandemic of 2020 blew in quickly like a cold, dark storm off the Puget Sound swirling and disrupting our lives for the foreseeable future. As the Seattle area went into a sharp, early lockdown our professional lives changed almost overnight. The buzzing hallways of the hospital were stark, empty of patients, visitors and changing shift workers. Several checkpoints at hospital entrances emerged overnight, checking temperature and asking related questions. ‘No visitation’ signs were everywhere.
We quickly got used to the ubiquitous presence of gowns, gloves and masks; constant wiping of surfaces and washing of hands. Daily informative emails filtered through the inbox from the task force and command center apprising us of patient admissions, ICU bed strength and ultimately mortality rates. The atmosphere was charged and stressful. There was little relief and many more months of pain and desperation. Healthcare workers bore the brunt of this insidious, devastating virus knowing earlier on that there were few viable treatment options.
Buried within stacks of chest radiographs waiting to be read and reported was the hallmark of the virus. Large, snowy, confluent opacities blurring clear breathing lungs. Ground glass, translucent lesions, scattered across- random and ominous. ICU patients on ventilatory support. Chest CT reports of sequela of thickening of the lung support structure and chronic debilitating inflammatory reaction. New protocols were adopted hastily to keep staff and patients safe, yet we had several technologists sick from exposure, many from of the emergency room and ICU. Several outpatient diagnostic tests and procedures were deferred initially due to the lack of widespread availability of PPE and later because of the lockdown. I often wonder how many delays in diagnosis were encountered during those early months.
The unrelenting pandemic took a deep and inestimable toll on technologists, check in clerks and radiologists who all usually work synchronously like a well-oiled machine, dispensing the daily work at hand with swift speed.
Ten long and dreary months later, cases still surge, and patients still arrive emergently requiring admission and respiratory support. The hallways of the hospital are still relatively empty but now there are several colorful posters lining the walls made by grateful and thankful patients and their families. The warm gratitude and praise are heartfelt. Finally, there is much hope on the horizon. There are a myriad of treatment options and support therapies. Vaccine approval and distribution is ongoing; most of us have been vaccinated. While we still face the daily onslaught of working in the middle of a global pandemic, the sun is already shining in Seattle.