Andrew Canakis, DO ’18 April 28, 2020
PCOM Heroes of the Front Line
Resident, Internal Medicine, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
“When I graduated from PCOM two years ago, I never thought I would be able to add
‘global pandemic’ to my repertoire of skills and experiences, yet here I am, a second-year
resident in the midst of COVID-19. And since residents are often the first physicians
patients see when they come to the hospital, we are truly on the front lines. … I’ve
worked in the ICU throughout the outbreak. I’m fully garbed most of the time, with
face shield, mask, gown, booties and bouffant to cover my hair. We all need to minimize
our exposure. At first, I was anxious. But then I was there, gowning up with nurses,
pharmacists and respiratory therapists. Our multi-disciplinary team is all in it together.
… Daily, it is my job to cover the COVID consult pager, which means if a patient on
a floor has increased oxygen demand, I evaluate to see if that patient needs to go
to the ICU. If he or she can’t speak for himself/herself, I work to reach family members.
We have very serious life decisions happening over the phone. … In terms of medicine,
we are all learning new therapies together and vigilantly checking new trials around
the world. … The ICU is eerily quiet these days. Patients stay in single rooms, behind
glass doors, many on ventilators. There are no longer visitors crowded in the rooms
or waiting in the hallways. Normal hustle and bustle has been replaced with silence
and emptiness. … What drew me to internal medicine was the patient contact, interacting
with families and helping them make complicated decisions. It is so hard on families
who can’t see their loved ones in the ICU. I often end up on videoconference calls
with healthcare proxies and families, updating them on the patient prognosis, asking
what are their wishes about breathing machines, CPR. Last week, I was able to obtain
permission for two family members to come into the ICU to see a very sick patient.
It had taken over a week of advocacy to allow them to come in, dressed in full PPE.
I was able to open that door for them (literally and figuratively); the experience
brought us all to tears. … I miss sitting across from a family to discuss next steps
in treatment. I miss hugging them as I share good news or comforting them as I relate
bad news. I miss the power of touch. That’s what makes us human. At the moment, the
power of words has become much more important. There is hope in our words, our compassionate
communication—our commitment to our patients.”
As told to David McKay Wilson
April 19, 2020
About Digest Magazine
Digest, the magazine for alumni and friends of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine,
is published by the Office of Marketing and Communications. The magazine reports on
osteopathic and other professional trends of interest to alumni of the College’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and graduate programs at PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia.