The Last Word

by Hujefa Vora, MD – Publications Committee

This article was originally published in the March/April issue of the Tarrant County Physician. You can read find the full magazine here.

The last words I wrote in this journal were printed in January 2020, after a family trip to Disney World:

“I returned to work in this New Year, in this new decade, invigorated. My optimism stems from the smiles of my baby girl and her beautiful mother. It stems from an understanding that our imaginations power our spirit and our spirit powers our hearts. This year, 2020, will be an amazing year for all of us because I will will it to be so. The world is full of magic. We are so blessed to be physicians. I needed a particular princess to remind me of this. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. I hope your year is starting out as well as mine. I pray that all of us can find perspective and optimism somewhere in this world, so that despite the bureaucrats and the obstacles and the hazards along our journey, we can continue to serve our patients in this, the highest of all callings in the Galaxy.”

This was quite obviously written before a viral pandemic spread across the United States, infecting countless numbers of our families, friends, and loved ones, killing over 500,000 Americans. It was written before our world changed forever.

Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Fatigued. These are the emotions that have defined our existence on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year. We have watched helplessly as many of our patients and loved ones have slipped away. We have held the hands of patients who have passed away in respiratory isolation, their closest loved ones on phones and miles away, not allowed into the hospital. But I have seen Joy, when the infection overwhelms but the body and spirit fight on, conquering the virus and returning our patients to health. We have seen families reunited after long battles in the hospital ICU or at home in quarantine. We have seen Hope. We have known Love. I have seen the fantastic power of the human spirit. I have seen God’s love, and the power of prayer. There were moments when I felt that I could no longer fight for myself or anyone else, when the exhaustion would creep into my bones, and leave me battered, bruised, and almost beaten. But we are physicians. And we work with amazing, powerful nurses, medical assistants, medical techs, therapists, and hospital administrators—a formidable health care team. So I saw unexpected acts of bravery, acts of selflessness, moments that were etched into my soul forever. I saw us fight an unknown adversary. I have been privy to courage and honor, as we wrapped our patients in an armor of hope. I have seen hands that are raw from washing and sanitizing and wringing but showed no signs of relenting or retreat or defeat.

And in early January of 2021, at the hospital where I have seen and experienced all of this, there was a moment where my hope was recovered, where I became recharged and ready to step back onto the battleground. I saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, the sun peeking over the horizon at the end of a cold dark night. The promise of a new day. The vaccine.

“Overwhelmed.  Exhausted.  Fatigued.  These are the emotions that have defined our existence on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year.”  

As I received that second dose, I wondered how any of us survived this year. I wept tears of joy, thinking that I finally knew in that moment that we would make it through this war. The tears burned with the memory of all those we have lost. It didn’t need to get this bad. Why did we have to lose so many? And how many more will we lose? The answer depends now on our resolve. We must resolve to vaccinate as many of our patients as we can as soon as possible. As a medical community, we should assist our public health departments, hospitals, clinics, and our federal, state, and local governments to roll out these vaccines with great efficiency. The only way we will win this war now is by vaccinating the masses and following the public health guidelines to wash our hands, distance, and wear masks.

I returned to work in this New Year, 2021, reinvigorated. My optimism stems from the smiles of my colleagues, which have been renewed with hope that the tide is turning. My optimism stems from an understanding that our imaginations power our spirit and our spirit powers our hearts, and that science and ingenuity and heart will prevail with the advent of this vaccine. This year, 2021, will be an amazing year for all of us because I will will it to be so. The world is full of magic. We are so blessed to be physicians. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. I hope your year is starting out as well as mine. I pray that all of us can find perspective and optimism somewhere in this world, so that despite the ill effects of COVID-19 on all of our lives, and the obstacles and the hazards along our journey that was 2020, we can continue to serve our patients in this, the highest of all callings. I want to thank all of my colleagues and compatriots who have shared this year with me and my family. We have shown that together we are stronger, and we will overcome. My name is Hujefa Vora, and this is the Last Word.

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