In the April web exclusive issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Elizabeth Hankollari shares her heart-wrenching story about a patient fighting for his life while in isolation, with family unable to visit. The article is entitled "In Isolation but Not Alone" and was featured in the Annals section On Being a Doctor, a forum for careful deliberation about other aspects of medicine.
Hankollari wrote this reflection in May 2020, about a week after this patient had passed away, and about 6 weeks after Duke University Hospital opened their COVID unit. It is the first piece of non-medical writing Hankollari has written since college.
"Writing this piece was my way of dealing with some of the emotions I experienced while taking care of that particular patient in that time in history," explains Hankollari. "I had so many conflicting emotions - a physician's sense of duty to help care for COVID patients; a human desire to provide comfort to a dying patient; a sense of guilt for being there when his daughter could not be present; a sense of gratitude that I could be there when his family could not."
Hankollari submitted this publication in hopes that there might be other physicians or healthcare workers who would find comfort in reading it. Since this article was published, she has received several emails from doctors across the country who had similar experiences.
"I think this connection with other physicians in similar circumstances really helped me understand and appreciate my own experience with this patient," she says.
Dr. Elizabeth Hankollari is an Assistant Professor of Medicine (General Internal Medicine) and a Hospitalist physician at Duke University Hospital.