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Gina Blocker, DO ’10, FAAEM 
PCOM Heroes of the Front Line

Staff Emergency Physician, St. Luke’s/Baylor Hospital, Houston, Texas

Gina Blocker, DO ’03, looks at the camera through many layers of protective equipment including a heavy duty face mask“I was in the Army for 10 years prior to moving into the civilian world in 2017. I did my training at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas. And then I was stationed at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso. El Paso had more veterans, and Fort Hood had more healthy young servicemen—lots of kids, and the ER was always bustling with young families. … Now I’m drawing on the things that I learned—my skill set, my mentality—compartmentalizing my work life versus my home life. I am used to the critical care aspect, but it’s the preparation for going to and being at work that are different. As a breastfeeding mom, now I’m taking precautions for myself and my three-month-old. … I work my shifts fully donned in my own PPE, and I have to doff everything when I pump breast milk in my office. It’s a decontamination ritual that takes me about 15 minutes, and then I pump for about 22 minutes. I do that three times during each nine-hour shift while managing critical patients, taking calls from nurses, doing verbal orders, admitting patients to the hospital, checking lab results. … There’s the mental worry that I didn’t doff appropriately, and I’m trying to keep the breast milk as sterile as possible. … At home, my eight- and seven-year-olds are always asking, ‘Mom, you’re going to fight the coronavirus today, right?’ And my three-year-old says, ‘And you’re going to win!’ … The hardest part is when I come home. Usually I’ve been gone for at least 10 hours, and my kids haven’t seen me all day; they want to hug Mom, jump on Mom. I sneak in the front of my house, and I get completely stripped down, and then hop in the shower for 30 minutes, scrub, scrub, scrub. … The community support for us has been amazing. But I’ll say generally, for the physicians: we’re exhausted. … I’m meeting with people’s families and they can only see a tiny bit of me. I can’t even hold people’s hands. … Our cases are inching back up over the last four days since we opened up our state of Texas. I am concerned about the uptick. We’re not ready to reintegrate everyone back into the society at this point. … I wish I had a camera on me so that I could blast from the rooftops what this is actually doing to people. One of my close friends, 31 years old, no medical problems—she wound up in the ICU, intubated on ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation]. She was sedated for six weeks. She’s in recovery now. . … Somebody said to me, ‘You know, you’re like a real-life hero.’ I never considered myself a hero. I always just said, ‘I answered the call.’ ”

As told to Janice Fisher
May 23, 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.

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