MEDICINE AND MENTAL HEALTH
The Menace of the Dreaded “Second Wave”
It ever looms, and the tension won’t go away. But we can’t cower in fear
Cases in Illinois, where I live and practice, are rising at an alarming rate. Already, the Governor has ordered indoor dining closed in several counties, including the county in which I live and in which I practice.
Back in April and May, at the height of our first wave, it was absolutely horrible. We had dozens of patients in the hospital, and my entire ICU was full of patients with Covid-19 on ventilators. So many patients died, and to this day, I shudder when I think of those days.
So, looking at the steep rise of cases in our state, there is no small amount of dread that the second wave of Covid-19 is coming. Already, in the past two weeks, we have had more patients admitted to our hospital than we had the entire summer.
The weather is considerably colder. People are congregating indoors. And, I am sure there is no shortage of pandemic fatigue on the part of many Illinoisans who are sick of Covid and the restrictions that have come along with it.
The problem is this: SARS CoV-2 is not suffering from “pandemic fatigue.” SARS CoV-2 is not taking a break. SARS CoV-2 will take advantage of any let-up in our vigilance to come roaring back, and it seems like this is beginning to happen in Illinois.
This menace of the dreaded second wave looms large over all of us in here where I practice. It is a tension that won’t go away. Down to a person, if you ask him or her about Covid coming back as it did earlier in the Spring, and they shudder in fear — myself included.
We have not yet fully recovered — mentally — from the first wave of infection. To this day, if a “rapid response” is called upstairs, I stiffen in fear, worried that this may be another Covid patient crashing and needing to come down to the ICU.
Yes, we had a nice break in the summer. There were weeks where we had no Covid patients at all in my ICU, and it felt a little like it did before Covid came on the scene. But, Covid never went away.
For most of the summer, there were always one or two patients who came to our ICU for care, and many of them still died. This disease is just as lethal and horrific as ever. We just weren’t as inundated in the summer like we were in the spring.
Now that the fall and winter are setting in, the dread continues to grow as we watch the case numbers — and case curve — grow in tandem in Illinois. Yet, here’s the thing, we can’t control whether the second wave will hit us like a tsunami or just a ripple. We can control, however, our response to it.
We know much more about this virus now than we did in the spring. We are much more comfortable taking care of these patients, being veterans of the first Covid War in April and May. We know more about how to better care for these patients, with respect to oxygen, therapeutics, and overall clinical care. And so, if a second wave does hit us with vengeance, we are much better prepared.
This doesn’t take away from the fact that the fear is still there. This doesn’t take away from the fact that it will be really bad if our ICU gets filled back up with a deathly sick patient after patient with Covid. This doesn’t take away from the fact that we don’t have the same level of support from the community that we did back in the spring.
Still, even though it seems quite likely that we will indeed suffer from a “dark winter” from a Covid resurgence, we cannot cower in fear. We cannot let that fear paralyze us. We got this, and we know what to do. It just doesn’t make me any less scared.