As the University of Maryland and the rest of the state began to shut down to battle COVID-19, Dr. Jessica Lu (B.S. ’14, biological sciences) had already spent weeks fighting it on the frontlines as a physician working in a Seattle hospital.
“Seattle was the first major city in the United States to be hit with coronavirus. We didn't have the luxury of prior preparation because when the virus first hit, we didn't really have any protocols set,” Lu explained. “Things were constantly changing and we had to learn to adapt and make changes based on information that was changing by the minute.”
Lu first got word of the virus in January, thanks to family members in China. There was always a fear that it would spread to other regions, but the severity of it didn’t really hit her until she started seeing cases at her hospital a month later.
“I don't think anyone could have predicted the devastation and the mass changes to our way of life that this pandemic has caused,” she said.
As a physician, Lu and her colleagues face tremendous challenges dealing with COVID-19 patients every day.
“What's unique about this situation is there's a blurring of lines between career and personal life. This is a very contagious disease and there's fear of spreading it to our loved ones at home,” she explained. “So that raises an extra level of anxiety because I'm not only concerned about my own health, but I'm also concerned about the health of those around me. That is something that I've heard over and over again from my own colleagues who have young kids at home or live with elderly parents. I think it's really difficult and challenging emotionally to grapple with how vulnerable we are, not only to ourselves, but to the ones we love.”
To help amplify the voices of her fellow health care workers and inform the public about the impacts of COVID-19 on the medical community, Lu and her friend, fellow physician Sandra Truong, created the Instagram account Frontline COVID-19.
“There was so much misinformation about what was happening, and there were so many changes within the hospital that we wanted to create an outlet for the public to get a behind-the-scenes look at what was truly going on on the frontline,” Lu said. “We also wanted to create a means of communication for other health care providers from around the world and amplify their voices and share their stories.”
When you visit the Frontline COVID-19 account, you’ll see a collection of photos taken at medical facilities around the country, like mask lines on the face of an ICU nurse who helped facilitate a goodbye phone call between a dying patient and their children, a look inside the hospital’s COVID-19 triage tent, and a photo of thousands of health care workers who marched to Seattle City Hall in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think seeing the humanism and the personal sacrifices people have made in the course of fighting this pandemic helps put a face to these scary numbers that are thrown out there,” Lu said.
The response to the Instagram account has been positive. And now, as many states have lifted stay-at-home orders and people are beginning to return to their regular routines, Lu and Truong have considered using their account to highlight the next phase of life with COVID-19.
“The overall takeaway from this time is that life is unpredictable,” Lu said. “But recognizing that we have to all work together, respect one another and show kindness is what has gotten me through a lot of it.”
Media Relations Contact: Chelsea Torres, 301-405-5204, firstname.lastname@example.org
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