A doctor’s diary from a pandemic: Finding comfort

Meet Zoe, our 15 1/2 year old dog. Just look at that face! Zoe has no idea about coronavirus and social distancing is just not a thing for her. Her concerns today are the same as they were a couple months ago before the big pandemic hit: food, sleeping, and the occasional walk outside even though she limps now and can barely walk 50 feet. And if we’re having popcorn – her favorite – life is simply grand for this old pupper.

Don’t you wish you had the zen like live-in-the-moment life of a dog?

Our lives, alas, are a bit more complicated. Here at the hospital of Hennepin Healthcare, the halls where patient care is not done are as quiet at 12 noon as they usually are at 2:00 am. On the patient care units, the nurses and doctors and food service people and all the staff are busy doing what they do best – caring for people. Only now they are all gowned up and wearing face shields and masks. Lack of facial expressions between patients and nurses and doctors means eye contact is critical and surprisingly effective.

But all this leaves me to wonder about where we find comfort in our lives. For me, art has always been one of those areas of comfort. Whether it be live theater, orchestral or rock concerts, gallery shows or movies at a theater . . . these are things I miss.

Some ideas of stuff to do

So here’s what I’m doing to get a bit of comfort even while working in a hospital and doing my best at social distancing. And yes, I’ve resorted to putting up pictures of my dog. It’s come to that.

Minnesota Orchestra At Home. This is an awesome series of world-class musicians playing in their own homes. Check out Principal Cellist Tony Ross with his mother-in-law on the piano. They play Solveig’s Song by Grieg and it is beautiful, complete with his dog faithfully keeping everything on the up and up. Or Fei Xie and Christopher Marshall doing a bassoon duet. Even Maestro Vanska breaks out the clarinet with Concertmaster Erin Keefe playing a piece of his own composition. This Little Light of Mine by a brass quintet! There are many more and I recommend them to you for a quick bit of music and fun. Click the link above to see the musician videos.

Streaming on TV. OK, like nearly everybody, I’m watching stuff on the tube. My only problem is that I don’t really have any “shows” since Julie and I finished watching every episode of The Great British Baking Show before the pandemic hit. That show was our favorite (“it’s all in the bake” you know). But I still have episodes of Mrs. Maisel and The Crown to watch. And the new PBS Masterpiece mini-series World on Fire looks really good, at least based on Episode 1. And what to make of the Tiger King series. Oh dear. I watched the first episode and I’m just not sure I have the inner fortitude to watch another. Sort of like watching a train wreck in real time on that one.

How about books? I’m currently about 300 pages into David Blight’s Frederick Douglass. This is a hefty read but I am learning so much about the 19th century’s most famous orator. Here is something I didn’t know . . . it is largely thought that more people heard Frederick Douglass speak than any other person of the entire 19th century. And he was probably the most photographed person of that century as well. I found that super cool.

I’m also trying to remember to just be still every day. Not always successfully.

So we carry on with whatever comforts we can find. I hope you are finding some ways to find comfort amid the isolation if you are at home, and some comfort amid the chaos if you are working in healthcare/grocery stores/public safety/trucking/shipping companies . . . or any of the others out there keeping us going in important jobs.

Or you could always just chill out like Zoe the urban animal. Not a care in the world for that beast.

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