by Linda Good, M.D.
In this moment of world-wide crisis, I hear my father’s reassuring voice: “This too will pass. Time takes care of everything.” I always thought that this adage seemed a bit too simplistic, but perhaps I am coming to a closer understanding of what patience and hope are all about in these dangerous times.
My father was a B-17 bomber pilot who flew 40 missions over Germany and came back not only to have saved his own life, therefore making my life possible, but he brought all his crew and squadron members home safely as well. When holiday cards would arrive at our home, there were always several from men he had flown with during World War II.
My father rarely talked about the war and even more rarely showed emotion, but I saw tears run down his face when he would read these messages of gratitude from his army buddies who would thank him for bringing them home safely from those terrifying missions over enemy territory.
Now as a family physician taking care of anxious patients coming into an urgent care center during the Covid-19 crisis, I understand in a small measure that responsibility for the well-being of others during a time of unresolvable fear. I need to maintain a voice of calm and reason while uncomfortable in a mask, face shield, gown and gloves.
I need to give the tempered warnings and appropriate alarms but not worsen the hysteria of this situation we are all in together with no cure, no treatment and no end in sight. I need to maintain above all my humanness, compassion and integrity to give what I can of reassurance and hopefulness.
The trust that patients have for their physicians in this pandemic is different from the trust that my father’s crew members put in him during the fight to maintain democracy in the 1940s, but there are some elements of commonality. In both cases the leaders need to show up and do their jobs to the best of their ability without apology or regrets about not being able to do more or counting the costs of personal risks.
In both cases the followers need to do their part by trusting in the guidelines developed by the health professionals and adherence to them, even when it means personal sacrifice. Ultimately it is the sacred trust that will work to get us all through this together.
My father went on to become a teacher and an elementary school principal, earn a Ph.D in education and become a college professor. The holiday cards continued with slightly different messages but still with expressions of gratitude for what his leadership had meant to those he taught or supervised.
As a teenager, I was caught remarking to my friends that Dr. Warren Good was not a REAL doctor (that is, not an M.D.), a comment that I lived to regret. These greeting cards and other letters of appreciation were saved in a file that I reviewed at the time of my father’s death in 2002 at the age of 83.
I clearly understood then what courage and allegiance to duty, even when it required personal sacrifice, are all about. I got to appreciate on a new level what an influential and inspiring person my father was to so many.
Now all these years later, I appreciate my father’s many contributions and how he made a difference to those he led back to safety during the war years and to the many he mentored as an educator. Even with so many accomplishments and accolades, he was most proud of me and my sister, who followed in his footsteps to become a teacher. I am truly humbled these days as I channel his spirit standing before patients who trust me to help them get through this health crisis.
So many times in recent years, as I have had conversations with medical students or young people considering a career in medicine, I express gratitude for the opportunity to be a physician. I tell them that there is nothing else in the world I would rather have done with my life and what a privilege it has been to provide some comfort and occasionally healing. I feel it even more strongly now amid this crisis.
Many times during this past month, I have felt frightened and doubted my ability to respond appropriately to this pandemic. Yes, I know that this too will pass, and time takes care of everything. And all I can do is my best, as my father always encouraged me to do and as he role-modeled for me. And I remember how proud he always was of me and that I am his daughter.
Dr. Linda Good, 71, a beloved family physician, helped start the Mt. Airy Family Practice, 760 Carpenter Lane, in 1989, and left it in 2016. After just six months of retirement, Dr. Good “missed the practice of medicine more than I ever imagined.” So she went back to work in an urgent care center in Roxborough, where she is now treating coronavirus patients.
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