A personal COVID-19 story
Emily Hall is a third-year PharmD candidate at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, my dad was admitted to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. At the time, there had been only one COVID-19 related death in the state of Illinois. Yet I worried that my previous phone call with him—when he could not speak for more than a few moments before spiraling into a traumatizing coughing fit—might be my last. I tried to understand how someone in the picture of health could so easily, and quickly, become almost reliant on a ventilator to stay alive.
Coping with an uncertain prognosis
As a student pharmacist, I immediately wanted to know my dad’s symptoms, oxygen levels, and medications. My mind was focused on the data, while trying to cope with the uncertainty related to my dad’s prognosis. I wanted, needed to help. I spent hours poring through PubMed and Lexicomp looking for information that simply did not exist yet. Thankfully, my dad was released 7 days later.
Unfortunately, more than a year later, my dad and I are in a similar situation. Although he is no longer acutely sick, he is still managing the effects of his COVID-19 infection every single day, and I still do not have the answers he requires. Since his initial COVID-19 infection, my dad has been living with shortness of breath, brain fog, and freezing extremities associated with the feeling of pins and needles. It is stated that 1 in 10 persons infected with COVID-19 will develop these long-term symptoms. While science and medicine have learned much about COVID-19, data on the long-term effects for survivors are limited.
Even though I can understand some of the pathophysiology of these long-term symptoms, I have yet to find the evidence and information needed to help my dad return to his previous state of health. It is difficult being a future health care provider without the ability to care for someone I love.
Hope for the future
This past year has been one of the most challenging of my life. I have felt hopeless and scared. Living through the pandemic and having been directly impacted by the COVID-19 virus has left my family and me with trauma. With so many people in the United States experiencing long-term symptoms like my dad's, my generation of health care providers will be responsible for caring for patients like him with understanding, empathy, and hopefully one day, evidence-based treatment.
This experience has allowed me to understand my purpose as a future pharmacist: To have a positive impact on the lives of my patients and their loved ones.