COVID-19 Pandemic Memoir is a Tear Jerker

If you can take the trauma, this one is worth listening to

Thomas Fisher

As a Chicagoan and also as one of the many American's who lost a loved one to COVID-19, I was immediately drawn to this one. I love stories that take place in Chicago and I was intrigued to hear a doctor's perspective on the pandemic.

Thomas Fisher is an emergency room doctor working on the South Side of Chicago when the city is suddenly locked down as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has seen firsthand how our country's healthcare system treats many as second-class citizens. The book follows his days in the ER and coping with the isolation of being an ER doctor during a global pandemic.

Outside of the same appeal for watching the lives of doctors that keeps Grey's Anatomy on the air, I really love that Fisher interrupts the narrative of his days to write letters to his various patients. They are vulnerable and beautifully written. Reading this book brought me to tears at the thought of my father dying alone in a ICU during the pandemic in the same isolation that Fisher describes so poignantly.

Fisher is a Black man who grew up on Chicago's South Side and has now come to practice medicine in the same neighborhood. He is doing the best he can in the short time that he's given with each patient, but he is forced to barter with the realities of racism in American's health system. In his letter, Fisher explores why many Black and poor people are not offered the same level of care available to those with private insurance. He goes one step further, by including not only the pandemic but also the protests for racial justice that took place across the city of Chicago that summer. His commentary echoed a lot of what I was also reading at the time in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.

I listened to this one on audiobook, which Fisher reads himself. Listening to his voice made everything - especially the letters - feel so much more empathetic and impactful. I do not know that I would have like it as much if I had read the book.

Overall, I really like this one. I laughed. I cried. It moved me. Fishers frustration with the American healthcare system and also relentless care for his patients come through so clearly when spoken in his own words. Ultimately, this book is a call to arms to create a better system of healthcare and to protect our people. Will anyone listen?

...Fixing it and building a healthy population requires a revolution in the way we view humanity, clarity in the trade-offs we're making, and honesty in the costs embedded in seemingly neutral decisions. In the process we must face the damage we've accepted in the name of profit, elevate moral leadership, reconcile conflicting truths with honorable new systems--and protect the lives of my worthy and beautiful patients who seem doomed from the start. Only then can we follow steps toward better health and a better health-care system for America, one that is just and true.


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