I’m Sandra E. Luyindula. I’m a wife, a mother, and a family physician in SC. After residency, I worked for a large hospital system in a clinic setting. A few days weekly, I also made house calls for my geriatric patients. This was extremely rewarding despite the numerous hours taken from patient care and spent behind the wheel. When I joined Proactive MD, I was fortunate to feel that same fulfillment in my work, with even more hours of my day devoted to patient care. I had the time to build relationships with my patients that included many beautiful moments of sharing laughter and even tears together. I listened to their life stories and helped them pinpoint areas where healing could begin in a holistic fashion.
Then, the pandemic of the century came on like a wave. Suddenly, the face-to-face encounters with my patients had to be modified for everyone’s safety. The progress, my patients and I had made, halted and sometimes even regressed. My beloved patients were now gripped by fear, anxiety, illness, unemployment, family concerns, and much more. Weeks went by and society began to reopen. Many of my patients remained closed off to connection. I could feel the barriers we had broken down in previous months being replaced by the walls of sickness, uncertainty, and social distancing.
Hélas! COVID-19! Who can blame anyone for putting up walls when there is a foreign invader in our midst? Attacking the upper, middle, and lower class without distinction; killing Blacks, Whites, Asians, and Hispanics. Showing no partiality yet affecting some worse than others for multiple reasons, of which some are not yet fully understood. An unseen threat so powerful as to foster a nationwide mental health crisis. The worst of it all, the remedy I have so often shared with my patients—the hand holding or hug to let them know that I am there to walk with them in the hurt— vanished!
As we return to daily routines, we are faced with the question of what normalcy is. For more reasons than the global pandemic, our world seems so far from normal in this moment—so far from right, good, fair, or unified. As if the physical distance was not enough, we now feel an even deeper chasm between us and our fellow man. Everywhere we turn, we witness division and hurt. How can we begin to re-establish our connection with one another?
I can only speak for myself, but I want to encourage you with what I have observed among my patients and the ways I am striving to prevent them from feeling alone. First, I am encouraging them to view social distancing as an opportunity to deepen connection rather than be resigned to isolation. Yes, social distancing translates to physical distance—but ultimately it is about caring for our friends and family. I often say, “Protect me as I protect you.” As you practice social distancing, good hygiene, face covering and cough étiquette in your daily routines, do not let that keep you isolated. Instead, try to remain in contact with others via various media or drive by your parents or grandparents’ place of residence and wave.
We, as hosts, can play a role in determining the severity of the predicted second wave, which could occur sooner than initially predicted. We can protect our neighbors, coworkers, parents, spouses, children, and friends. Ultimately, this only works effectively if we work together.
Lastly and most importantly, I am striving for connection to my patients through pure persistence. While I may not be able to physically wipe away their tears, my empathy and compassion for them have not wavered. Even as forces I cannot control are building up walls around my patients, I am continuously working to climb those walls, to break down barriers, to bridge every gap I possibly can for them. From daily phone check-ins, to consulting various specialists on their behalf, to coordinating their care in the hospital, to educating and reaching out to their families, I will do whatever it takes to keep them from feeling lost or alone. The more divided the world appears, the more important this mission becomes to me: I will continue to fight for the greatest good of every patient in my care, regardless of what they look like or what their belief system is. I will never give up hope and neither should you.