My Father, a Nevada Surgeon Who Never Gave Up During Covid-19
Dominic Matteoni reports on his father who has been an inspiration for him, as he attempts to find his own place amid the lingering turbulence of the pandemic.
Along with an increased amount of fear among patients, physicians all over the United States have had to deal with a plethora of issues since the initial outbreak of COVID-19. Healthcare workers have been required to work more hours, some hospitals are operating at maximum capacity with shortened staff, misinformation, fear — these are just a few of the issues my father spoke about when remembering the past year-and-a-half.
My father, who has been a practicing physician for over 20 years, has received respect from doctors across Northern Nevada. His care for patients, his work ethic, and his knowledge of the field of orthopedics are all aspects of his character worth envying.
“Most people in healthcare will continue to work long hours regardless of commitment. That’s what we signed up for,” my father told me as I interviewed him for this report.
He voiced a real concern though for the safety of both patients and doctors going forward.
“We had trouble just getting patients to come in for examinations because they were afraid of getting sick,” he said. “The paranoia surrounding the virus forced some of those who needed assistance to stay at home.”
At one point, hospitals decided to hold all “Elective Interactions” (basically non-emergency procedures, surgeries, examinations, etc.). This meant some physicians, like those in private practice, would have immense amounts of trouble finding work. While he does perform emergency surgeries, my father’s workload did see a decline in his work.
In terms of disease prevention, he explained to me hospitals already do an excellent job of maintaining a clean workspace.
“Everything we use is already sanitized before and after we touch it. Masks, and other protective gear, are things we’ve been used to wearing,” he says. “One difference, I guess, is our having to wear a mask at all times while in the hospital now… even when interacting with patients outside of surgery.”
While my father chooses to be hopeful, he understands that the past 18 months have been more difficult for some than others. I too remember him being particularly stressed due to the sheer amount of questions surrounding 2020. Companies and institutions across the country have experienced staffing issues during COVID, and hospitals are in no way exempt from that.
“People in health care… Whether it be nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, physician’s assistants, or even non-medical employees like sanitation workers, have had to work a lot more. With that, I think some have had trouble finding motivation,” he said. “You may have all the ICU beds that are required, but if you don’t have the staff to oversee and take care of the patients, then you can’t use those beds.”
“Not only is it limiting the amount of care we can provide to COVID patients, but to non-COVID patients as well who may be suffering from other emergency conditions. That includes cardiac issues, complications in mental health, or even orthopedic. All areas of medicine have been impacted.”
One aspect of COVID changes that still remains to this day is the prevalence of virtual doctor’s appointments. He prefers meeting his patients in person, but my dad understands that times are changing.
“Being that I work in orthopedics, it’s difficult sometimes to perform certain tests when I’m not physically with the patient,” he says. “But, part of my job is to adapt and I’d like to think I’ve done that.”
While he is aware of COVID’s recent resurgence, he, like most in his position, is confident in their ability to maintain a safe space for patients and healthcare professionals alike.
“The past 18 months have been a learning experience for all of us… and I think, ultimately, we have the opportunity to benefit from the things we’ve learned. With flu season approaching, I’m sure we’ll continue to see COVID cases. I’m trusting that we’ll be able to better contain the virus and better protect our community… but it’s going to take all of us. Everyone’s going to have to buy in.”
My father has managed to remain diligent during difficult times for as long as I can remember. I see a man who has lived his entire professional life on the same principles… the same principles I hope to one day instill in myself.