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Colleen Farrell, MD+ Your Authors @colleenmfarrell Internal medicine resident in New York City. Soon-to-be pulmonary and critical care fellow. Writer. Creator of @MedHumChat. Views mine. May. 03, 2020 4 min read + Your Authors

Up until #Covid_19, I drew a strict line with my family members and their medical problems. I avoided getting into details and only rarely offered advice. But so much is different now. When my sister developed covid symptoms, I got involved...

(Shared w her permission) 1/

She is a young, fit, healthy professional ballerina in LA. She’s been following all the #SocialDistancing rules. But she came down with covid symptoms anyway.

At first they were mild (cough, muscle aches) but then she started getting short of breath. 2/

This is someone who can dance for hours straight without being short of breath. She felt winded walking around her house. She was dizzy. To be honest, it made me really scared.

Then I found out her own doctor heard these symptoms and prescribed her anti-anxiety meds. 3/

In pre-covid medicine, I’m not sure I would have been to worried about her. But we’re in a pandemic, and I’m working in an epicenter of it, seeing young healthy people get horribly sick. I was worried she could have true hypoxia or even a PE (we’re seeing clots with covid) 4/

I also worry that my sister probably profiled as a hysterical woman. She’s older than me but looks 25, she’s a performance artist, and she has a giggly, cute way about her. I wanted her evaluated in an emergency room and taken seriously. 5/

I usually don’t feel comfortable when people use doctor privilege, but now I see why they do. I told her to go the emergency department and do not be shy to tell them that your sister is pulmonary critical care in NYC taking care of covid patients and she’s concerned. 6/

To be fair, I won’t be a pulm crit care fellow for two more months. But the thought of her symptoms being brushed off was too scary for me. I have never felt so protective in my life.

Fortunately, her vital signs were fine. Oxygen sat 98%. 7/

However, she still had intense symptoms. And her ddimer (a blood test that indicates increased risk of a blood clot) was elevated. She had told the team in LA that I was concerned for PE. They had her call me in the middle of the night to ask if I thought she needed a CT scan. 8/

I felt like I was on call in the hospital, being asked a really hard clinical question. But I wasn’t at work, I was at home, and this was my sister. Could I trust my clinical judgment? Was my protectiveness clouding my mind? 9/

At the same time, working in the ICUs of NYC, I have seen way more covid than I think her LA doctors had. Ultimately I told her and her team that the symptoms + lab test were really concerning, esp given how much we still don’t know about covid, and I recommended the CT. 10/

They got the chest CT looking for a PE (blood clot in the lung) and fortunately it was negative. Huge relief. Her covid test was negative, but given her symptoms, her docs in LA think she has it, as do I. She’s back at home, recooperating. 11/

She shared her experience on her Instagram @ imtheresafarrell in a really brave and vulnerable way. And she gave me clear permission to share this story here. 12/ 

One message of her video is “listen to your body.” I really believe this. She is an extremely fit athlete, short of breath walking in her own house, and thought it was “all in her head.”

It’s not. That doesn’t make sense. But that’s what sexist medicine tells women. 13/

I know we’re all trying to avoid the hospital because there is covid there, but if you feel winded just waking around or while trying to hold a conversation, you need to be evaluated by a medical professional. It’s not anxiety unless other causes have been ruled out. 14/

I also want to say my heart breaks for all those who are facing this disease or worried about love ones with it. My very small brush with it was so, so scary. I’ve never worried about healthy young people in my life getting seriously ill until now. 15/

I’m so glad my sister is ok. She is one of my favorite people on this earth and has been such a champion of me as a doctor, a writer, and a girl trying to find her way in this world. Here’s us at my med school graduation 🩰🩺

Stay safe. Listen to your body. Beleive women. 16/16

You can follow @colleenmfarrell.


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