COMMENTARY

When COVID Almost Healed Us

Brian's Story

Brian Devine; Jeffrey B. Teitler, MFA, photographer

Disclosures

September 29, 2020

Editor's note: In an effort to preserve the experiences of healthcare workers on the front lines, Medscape developed a set of artistic portraits of hospital practitioners who worked (and are working) through this pandemic. These images are accompanied by a short essay written by the participants that gives us a glimpse of their experience. It is a privilege to capture these stories, and we do so with the hope that those who risked their health, lives, and families in the service of others are not forgotten.

Brian Devine: In His Own Words

I have been a paramedic for over 25 years. I am also gay. In both worlds, I've seen the worst and the best of society. But this time of the coronavirus pandemic is complicated — and more and more, I am worried about what I see.

In the hospital, my colleagues and patients are Black, White, Buddhist, transgender — they represent every lifestyle or political belief you can imagine. That alone in today's culture should make us want to kill each other.

But when a patient decompensates or lives are at risk, the only thing that matters is that patient. Whether the patient is a boomer, Trump supporter, or a left-wing liberal, in a hospital, we come together with the full scope of our knowledge and skills to preserve that life. It is beautiful every time.

Today, I am not afraid of the virus. I am afraid for my country. I'm afraid that we are breaking each other down, that shades of gray are now black and white.

In unbelievable irony, it was the virus that almost healed us. It forced us to cover our skin with personal protective equipment. We went to work with heart-sinking fear, and our country was inspired to care. In the middle of a mass emergency, the force of our diverse efforts seemed to move the needle in a positive direction.

But then, 8 minutes and 46 seconds happened.

The nation was rightfully inflamed — and our country crashed. We collided into a full trauma; oxygen rates plummeted, violence raged, and urgently needed resuscitation efforts were difficult to find.

As a gay man living in America, I have no choice but to fight hate. Rather than being called out, I come out. I march in protests and attend political rallies, and even while being ostracized by some in my family, I stand on my beliefs.

Still, among all of those efforts and all that noise, saving a life with a team of White, Black, Asian, gay, Jewish, and Muslim people — of all political beliefs — remains the most gratifying. And it does the most good.

America can learn many lessons from life on the front lines. We're not perfect, but there's beauty in what we do. I'll choose to remember COVID-19 that way.

Jeffrey B. Teitler is a professor of filmmaking at Central Connecticut State University and the director of Envision Films. His scripted and nonscripted works have been presented nationwide, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations, and he has been an official selection and/or winner at a number of film festivals.

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