Grit and Gratitude: Pandemic Thanksgiving Reflections

Leah Croll, MD


November 29, 2021

What does it take for a healthcare worker to keep going nearly 2 years into this pandemic? A few words come to mind: perseverance, sacrifice, grit.

2021 was a high-stakes year. The pandemic raged on, vaccines were rolled out and a great deal of controversy ensued, and our modern political landscape became more volatile than ever, to say the least. But none of that changed our core mission: to continue giving our patients the care that they deserve.

To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. That's how clinicians are getting by. This Thanksgiving, our second in a post-COVID world, I am reflecting on how we gather the strength to keep going.

Recently, I rushed into the hospital at 2 AM to help my resident respond to simultaneous stroke codes. Believe it or not, both patients had right middle cerebral artery occlusions. While simultaneous thrombectomies proceeded, I needed to figure out where these patients could go for safe monitoring following their procedures. Our neurology ICU was full, and the medical and surgical ICUs weren't doing much better.

I called the medicine consult residents for help, expecting them to be stressed and frustrated with my request. But if they were frustrated, they certainly didn't show it. Busy as he was, one of the medicine consult residents took it upon himself to work with nursing, bed board, and housekeeping to make room for my stroke patients in the neurology ICU. His initiative allowed me to focus on my patients, one of whom had become unstable, and on communicating updates to their families.

It sounds small, but this kind of collaboration across different fields doesn't always happen. I've noticed, however, that it's happening more frequently in the wake of COVID-19's conquest. If there's a silver lining to the pandemic, in my view, it's that we truly tapped into the incredible power of working together.

I've never leaned on my colleagues (especially those outside of my own field) more than I have since February 2020. I've never been more inspired by them. I've never been more grateful to them.

I look around the hospital and see my colleagues toiling away, supporting one another, persisting. We've been through so much and yet we're still here, trying to put one foot in front of the other. I like to think that all of us are held up by our loved ones outside of the hospital, who reinforce our grittiness.

Personally, I am thankful for my friends and family who spent a good chunk of the last 2 years listening to me and supporting me. They've had limitless patience for my repeated complaints of exhaustion and constant worrying about the latest uptick in COVID cases. Truthfully, my fortitude is built on the laughter and encouragement that I get from my people.

There's just no way I could keep showing up for my patients over the last 2 years without my people behind me. But I did show up, and I will keep showing up. Now that I know how steely my determination to be a good doctor is, I know I have the grit that it takes to stand up to any challenge. For that, I have immeasurable gratitude.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

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About Dr. Leah Croll
Leah Croll, MD, is a neurovascular fellow at NYU Langone Health. She was also a neurology resident at NYU. Prior to that, she graduated from NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She is a contributor to the ABC News medical unit. In her free time, she is working on trying all the pastries in New York City, one bakery at a time.
Reach her on Twitter @DrLeahCroll


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