Good bye 2020! The year started with great optimism. At Olive our pregnancy rates were stable or higher than the months before, we were getting started with a few new research projects, we were teaching ob/gyn residents and had a great REI fellow who was working well. We were helping lots of people and the clinic was humming. On a person level, I had a couple of fun vacations planned and the year was shaping up well.
We heard about a virus in wet markets in China in February and (speaking for myself!), thought it would be contained quickly. Then March came in like a lion as cases started to climb around the world. Governments, hospitals and other institutions started to get worried. We cancelled vacations, stopped socializing and started to get worried too. I actually caught COVID and was ill in mid-March.
Doctors switched to Telehealth and meetings became Zoom sessions and school children stayed home. Some people panic bought staples - yeast and toilet paper were hard to find. We tuned in every day to hear our pubic health leaders try to guide us with less data but more wisdom than we thought was available.
Though we weren’t told to close, we did in late April for about 6 weeks. We stayed open only to help a couple of women who had been diagnosed with cancer in mid-April and needed to freeze their eggs.
During those 6 weeks doctors, many nurses and other staff continued to work to keep the clinic running remotely - answering patient’s worries and sorting out what would happen when we opened. We had meeting after meeting to come up with a framework to safely open in a pandemic. Standard Operating Procedures were developed, the waiting room was rearranged to rid us of fabric that could not be wiped clean, we hired COVID screeners and extra cleaning staff. Olive staff rose, banded together and surprised even themselves in managing a crisis like COVID. Some patients were stressed, angry, and scared. Many were deeply grateful that we kept working, stayed available and opened again, safely. Some were sad to learn we could no longer allow partners in the clinic unless necessary. What a rollercoaster ride patients were on, in the midst of the already challenging ride of infertility.
When we re-opened there was enormous uncertainty at Olive and in the larger community. What are we supposed to do it we are exposed to someone who had COVID? When are we supposed to isolate? What is the difference between isolating and quarantining? So many questions that only time and more data could answer.
In the fall people wondered about the impact of COVID on pregnancy (seems to be much like a severe flu - not a cause to delay conceiving) and now as winter settles we wonder about the vaccine (still not entirely clear but if you get it wait 2 months to conceive; Likely safe in pregnancy but no data so unless you are high risk to catch COVID (e.g. a health care worker) not necessarily recommended for you to be vaccinated in pregnancy - stay tuned as this will change as data emerges!).
Certainly there were many heavy, hard things about COVID. There were many good things too: fewer infectious illnesses overall, a change to focus on the essentials of life, fewer hours spent commuting, lower carbon emissions, better appreciation of our essential workers…..
Thank you. Thank you to our patients for their patience as we navigated 2020. Thank you to our staff for finding a way to say “yes” during uncertain times, working overtime, bringing your best selves on days when it was scary to even show up at all.
Best wishes for 2021.
Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility