Dr. Herb Aronow is an Interventional Cardiologist, who works at Lifespan’s R.I. and Miriam Hospitals. He is the Director of Interventional Cardiology for their Cardiovascular Institute and Director of the Catheterization Labs at both hospitals.
Beginning in late February to early March everyone at the hospitals came together and worked together. There were many meetings during which they discussed a broad range of topics such as the safety of patients and staff, PPE, and even proper ventilation and HVAC systems. They discussed the pros and cons of performing certain cardiovascular procedures like elective heart stents as per usual or deferring them until later. They talked about what to do if a patient was sick with Covid-19. They developed new protocols. They learned to do things differently, and in some cases found the new approaches to be better.
Adhering to the new protocols has presented challenges. Wearing PPE, including a mask and shield can impact one’s ability to see and hear clearly. Early on Herb and his colleagues had to continually adjust as the situation changed and new information became available. Herb says that they’ve learned a lot, and are now much better prepared during this second pandemic wave. Very few of his local colleagues became sick with Covid-19. Unfortunately, some from elsewhere around the country did and became very ill.
When the level of Covid-19 in the community rose significantly, Herb’s practice converted many office visits to telehealth; only those with the most urgent cardiovascular needs were seen face-to-face in his office. Likewise, elective procedures were postponed. Fortunately, now he’s back to seeing most patients in the office, and he’s been able to resume elective procedures.
For those who do come to the hospital, it can be a lonely time, since visitors are not allowed. But, around the world, because of fear of contracting Covid-19, many people, who should have come to the hospital while having a heart attack or a stroke didn’t, so avoided care. They became sicker and some even died. This wouldn’t have happened had they dared to come in as we were ready to treat them while, at the same time, protecting them from infection with SARS-CoV-2.
Most medical meetings are now virtual. Interestingly, there’s better attendance, since people don’t have to travel in order to attend, and it’s easier to juggle meetings with patient appointments. Of course, this is balanced by a loss of intimacy. You can’t shake hands with people and the social isolation is difficult for many. We’re social beings after all. Everyone recognizes that the isolation from family and friends is hard, but even the isolation from coworkers is difficult. There’s something about being in a room together, which isn’t attainable via Zoom.
When asked what makes him go on, Herb answered that he knows he plays a vital role for his critically ill patients. He’s able to intervene and save a life.
As the weather gets better, the numbers will go down. Vaccine distribution is increasing, and the number of deaths is decreasing. These facts give Herb hope that virus might fade away!
The pandemic has caused Herb to spend more time at home. He’s experiencing good family time. Herb says that it’s a good thing that he and his wife love each other, given how much more time they’re spending together. They go for walks with the dog. His dog loves having him around. To keep balanced, they both exercise at home, which includes riding the exercise bike, treadmill running, rowing and lifting weights. They watch movies together, and in nice weather enjoy the outdoors.