The most simple gesture can be the most meaningful during the current pandemic, in which patients are enduring hospital stays isolated from loved ones.
Banning visitors is a necessary precaution to stop the spread of the virus, but it’s often led to feelings of loneliness among admitted patients.
Dr. Elizabeth Paulk, an attending physician at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, wanted to help in a special way.
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“So many of them are really really close with their family and not be able to have their family there is really distressing,” said Dr. Paulk.
She decided to have her team make personal introductions by taking their photos sans their medical-grade masks and printing them on a sheet of paper, along with greetings in English and Spanish.
Paulk’s photo shows her with her two children.
On the paper is a heartfelt note for the patient.
“It says basically that it's scary to be in the hospital. We know it's scary. It's hard when you can't see someone's face, so here's what we really look like,” said Paulk. “If there's something you need, please let us know so we can make you more comfortable. It’s a hard time but you're not alone. We are here with you."
Paulk recalls the reaction of one of the first people to receive their flyer.
“I said, 'I made this for you, to hand it out to you,' and she read it over and she said, 'you know what? I feel better already because I know that I am being taken care of by humans!’” said Paulk.
An intern tweeted a photo of their gesture and in no time, the photo was retweeted thousands of times and the idea was replicated at other hospitals.
“It was totally worth it when one person was happy with it so that more people are happy, is terrific,” said Paulk.
She said for her, medicine is about making people feel better, in health and in spirit, even though the most isolating moments of COVID-19.
“There is so much concern for patients being alone but, you know, they're not alone. We are there because we care and we want to keep them safe,” said Paulk.
Her one request of the public, she said, is that they do everything they can to stay safe and healthy.