March 27, 2020
Good morning MDIBL,
There was no blog from me yesterday, but that doesn´t mean that there was no news. It was my first day back at the medical school in Hannover – I spent the first two days I was back in Germany in self-quarantine. I’m getting a lot of practice in self-quarantine these days! However, it lasted only a couple of days, since the results of my test were back within 6 hours.
On one hand we have the epicenters of the epidemic like New York City or Spain and Italy, while on the other hand we have Maine (no patients in MDI hospital yet) and Hannover. Here in Hannover, we have 20 beds with oxygen tanks waiting in the ER and operations have been canceled to free up the theaters for ICU beds, if and when they are needed. Tomorrow we will begin to fly patients from Strasbourg (another epicenter of the disease) and Madrid to Hannover, to provide them with medical care and ventilators. You can imagine how difficult such decisions are and how hotly debated they are in the community.
The waiting is hard. Our doctors, both in Maine and in Hannover, have done the best they can to prepare and are waiting anxiously for the patients to arrive. We’ve all seen the terrible pictures of overcrowded hospitals and heard the stories about triaging patients. It is hard under these conditions to concentrate on other things, such as science and research. However, keeping your mind active and staying occupied with something else is helpful. I have started to think about science again (not that I ever really stopped). But these days of imminent danger are also days where meetings have been cancelled, and conferences called off. Suddenly we find ourselves with more time to think than during our normal working days.
These days one of the challenging problems I’m thinking about is: why do kidneys have 16 different types of endothelial cells, while the brain only three and the heart just one? You guessed correctly; I am interested in endothelial cells! More importantly, not only have I had time to think about new ideas, but I’ve also found time to write to colleagues about scientific problems and some of my thoughts. I discovered that they also have more time on their hands than usual; serious discussions started, and novel concepts born. And for a short time, I wasn’t thinking continuously about the coronavirus. I was less anxious and worried. The problems are still there, and more are coming, but for a while, I took advantage of the situation to do something else.
I hope you are coping. Stay well.