Creating Community in Time of Crisis

“When COVID-19 caused widespread travel bans in early March, I knew my orthopaedic colleagues across the world would want information about how this would affect the AAOS Annual Meeting. I created a Facebook page to allow us to share information, help find alternate speakers for talks, and support each other. Little did I know what COVID had in store for me, and for our profession.

The Pandemic was declared, our meeting was canceled, as were all U.S. elective orthopaedic procedures. I transitioned the page into an Orthopaedic COVID-19 forum, which quickly grew to more than 1,000 members. I added moderators and admins to help manage the page, sharing strategies for telemedicine, PPE, surgical teams, resident education, how to apply for federal grants, and tips for surgeon wellness. We organized webinars and teleconferences to share resources.

At the end of March, I became very sick. My lungs felt as if stuffed with gasoline-soaked cotton. I couldn’t walk across a room without gasping for air and holding on to my dog. My fingers turned blue. When I could walk, I dragged myself to the hospital to be tested for COVID, which was positive.

I did, slowly, mostly, recover. Once I was allowed back to work, I joined the NYU Langone “COVID ARMY,” a team of physicians and others who were re-deployed to work on the COVID-19 wards to care for patients with Coronavirus. I was assigned to 12-hour day shifts on medicine teams, managing seriously ill COVID patients. What I found was that I, who had already had the virus, was one of the few who was not terrified to touch and interact with the patients. I made a point of telling them I had been ill and was back to work. I thought that seeing me, this could give them a little hope.”

Written by Claudette Lajam, MD, FAAOS