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Guest Editorial
The Random Nature of This Awful Virus
Jay Horowitz
Publish Date: January 6, 2021   |  Tags:   Opinion

Random. My 28-year-old daughter, Dani, called to say she'd lost her sense of taste and smell. She's a pediatric occupational therapist in South Carolina. Her colleague has the same symptoms and tested positive for the coronavirus. Dani tested positive today. No additional symptoms.

My 85-year-old mother-in-law, Sondra, lives in an assisted living facility with five residents. She has dementia. In July, all five tested positive. Sondra was taken to the hospital, relatively asymptomatic. She stayed for four days — alone and in her usual state of confusion — and recovered.

My 87-year-old mother lives in New York City and doesn't even know anyone who tested positive. She's stayed isolated and been fine.

An RN colleague of mine had pretty bad symptoms — she needed oxygen, but didn't require hospitalization. Her illness has lasted for weeks.

One of our surgeon's daughters tested positive at college and recovered. One of our surgeon's father-in-law got the virus and died two weeks later. A surgeon I worked with years ago is currently hospitalized in Ohio.

As primary caregivers and custodians for our four-year-old granddaughter, my wife Karen, and I are very risk-averse. Other than a biweekly grocery store trip, I only go to work. There I am masked, gloved, gowned and doused in sanitizer from the moment I get there until I leave. I'm fortunate my ophthalmology patients can wear masks throughout the perioperative process and are draped during the procedures. The staff is meticulous in keeping any possible droplets or airborne virus to a minimum.

On Oct. 17, 2020, my colleague and friend Barry Cranfill, CRNA, died after an eight-week battle with the virus. It was a miserable eight weeks; on a ventilator, ECMO and dialysis in the ICU at a hospital where he was loved and received all available care. His wife and two children, friends and family are devastated. Barry was only 58, and one of the most engaging and personable people you'd ever meet. An Apache Helicopter pilot for the Army who served MedEvac in the Middle East, Barry was former president of the Georgia State Board of Nursing and Georgia Association of Nurse Anesthetists. He even wrote for this magazine (osmag.net/m4VZPp).

So many younger colleagues benefitted from Barry's knowledge and rational thinking. His focus on patients, clients, employees and students was only superseded by his love for his family. Barry and I spoke just days before he was admitted to the hospital. He had no inkling he was carrying the virus. As with every conversation, the first topic was our families. It was the usual joyful and engaging discussion. I'm so glad and thankful we had that final talk.

Someday I imagine we'll know why people had such different responses to and outcomes from the virus. But right now, other than some consistency in gender, age groups, comorbidities and access to health care, COVID-19 is devastating and, of course, random.

I feel privileged to serve as the guest editor of the Manager's Guide to COVID-19, because as you can feel, this virus is personal for me. In the pages that follow, you'll find articles from experts — on everything from maintaining PPE levels to preparing for a post-pandemic surge — that will not only help you provide the safest environment for your patients and colleagues now, but will help you prepare for a better normal as we emerge from this crisis ready to provide the care patients expect from us.

Please stay out of harm's way and continue protecting yourself, your friends, family and your community. Distance, wear masks, sanitize. Don't let your guard down. Vaccines are here — the beginning of the end of our 21st-century pandemic.

Be careful. Stay safe. Stay healthy. OSM