photo Dr. Kris Bryant

Message from Dr. Kris Bryant, PIDS President

Now, more than ever, the world needs pediatric infectious diseases specialists. Your energy in taking care of patients. Your expertise in developing infection prevention and treatment protocols. Your creativity in designing studies to understand the pathogenicity of the virus and its impact on children, and developing new diagnostics.

To those of you who have been working on the frontlines of the pandemic, especially those of you in Washington, California and New York, please let us know how we, as your friends and colleagues, can support you from afar. Please let us know how the Society can support you.

I believe PIDS can play a vital role in facilitating an exchange of information about COVID-19 between experts in our field. On March 18th, a presentation originally scheduled for the St. Jude/PIDS conference was presented as a webinar. Dr. Mark Denison presented "Learning from SARS-COV-2". He was joined by Dr. Janet Englund ("The Seattle Flu Study") and Dr. Hana Hakim ("Infection Control of Coronavirus"). A recording of the webinar can be found on the PIDS website. A special thank you to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for their ongoing support of PIDS and the PID community.

PIDS Connect is a place to share policies and general strategies that you have found effective in your respective hospitals and communities. Many thanks to colleagues in Seattle who have taken a lead in this area and have been making their policies readily available to all. I am thrilled to announce that Janet Englund and members of Seattle Children's team have organized a special COVID-19 Webinar for Grand Rounds and will be sharing this via Webex next Thursday, March 26 at 11 am ET/8 am PT. Presenters include:

  • Dr. Ruth McDonald, MD, Nephrology, Seattle Children's
  • Dr. Alpana Waghmare, MD, Infectious Diseases, Seattle Children's
  • Dr. Tony Woodward, MD, MBA, Emergency Medicine, Seattle Children's
  • Dr. Danielle Zerr, MD, MPH, Infectious Diseases, Seattle Children's
  • Moderator: Dr. Kristina Toncray, MD, Hospital Medicine, Seattle Children's

I hope many of you will join us on Thursday. I anticipate the recorded presentation will be available online. Click here for more details.

In closing, I am going to state the obvious. This is an incredibly exhausting, stressful time. The following cartoon was created by Signe Wilkinson, a cartoonist at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. Signe is a friend and colleague of Jonathan Zimmerman, the husband of our Secretary-Treasurer Susan Coffin. Jonathan contacted Signe and asked for permission to share the cartoon widely and Signe graciously agreed. As Jonathan noted, "There are a huge number of people who need to see this and feel the sense of encouragement and support for the hard work they are doing and the even harder work to come."

See it online at: https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-healthcare-workers-hospitals-social-distancing-medicine-20200317.html.

I also encourage you to read the text of an Op-Ed below published in USA Today. I have removed the author's name from this communication at his wife's request. She generously noted, "This is not about me. This is about all of us."

Feel free to reach out to me with questions, concerns, and requests. We will try to keep the work of the Society moving forward, recognizing that many of you have no spare minutes in your day.

As best you can, take of yourselves.

Kris

The real heroes among us

I recently read that Penguin is rushing to publish a reprint of the English translation of "The Plague," the 1947 Albert Camus novel about an Algerian town decimated by a deadly infection. Earlier this month, the book sold out of stock on Amazon. Purchases of the Italian version have tripled; so have sales of the book in France, where Camus wrote it in the waning days of World War II.

That's because of the coronavirus crisis, of course, which made me dip into my wife's tattered copy of "The Plague." And that's where I recognized her.

My wife, that is.

She's too modest to be named here, but suffice to say that she is a physician at a major hospital in our area. Her job is to help prevent and treat infections, both at the hospital and in our broader community.

Since the crisis began, she has been working 16 to 18 hours a day. She has arranged coronavirus tests for hospital staff and others. She has advised doctors — at her institution, and elsewhere — about how to care for infected patients, and how to see that they do not infect others. And she has worked with state and local government officials to control the outbreak.

That means talking or texting on the phone, from dawn through the wee hours of the night. It means listening to all of the requests that come in, and carefully addressing each one. It means consoling people who are panicked, and getting people who are too casual to step it up.

I have observed all of this effort with enormous admiration, and also with a touch of envy. I take my own job seriously, but nothing I do will ever be as significant as what she is doing right now. She is not just my wife. She's my hero.

But if you used that term to describe her — and if she found 10 free seconds to reply —she would scoff at it. She's not some rugged surgeon or emergency-room doctor like you see on the TV melodramas, saving lives between commercials for car insurance and laundry detergent.

Yet that's also what makes her an actual hero, not a Hollywood one. The real heroes among us don't command our attention. They work behind the scenes, making sure that everything around us works as well.

Do we have the right protocols in place for handling the sick? Do we have enough masks, and gloves, and hand sanitizer? And is our staff trained to use them? Not sexy stuff, and not something that most people ever think about. But my wife does.

She's not alone, of course. By now, you've surely read about the nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, that was ravaged by coronavirus. But you probably haven't read about the nearby hospital, where everyone shifted into high gear.

Engineers mobilized to seal off rooms so contaminated air would not escape. Sanitation crews worked overtime to clean every space. And with protective helmets in short supply, nurses put sanitary pads inside them to provide extra insulation. These people are the real heroes, precisely because they don't see themselves that way.

And that's also how they resemble Bernard Rieux, the doctor who narrates "The Plague." As bodies pile up around him, Rieux works tirelessly to aid the sick and dying. But he rejects all the fancy talk about sacrifice and selflessness, which doesn't really matter when you've got a plague going on.

"This whole thing is not about heroism," Rieux tells a friend. "It's about decency. It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency."

The friend asks him what "decency" means. "In general, I can't say," Rieux replies, "but in my case I know that it consists of doing my job."

When this crisis has passed, there will be another, and then another. My wife will be there, working with quiet decency to protect the rest of us. This whole thing is not about heroism, for her. She's just doing her job.