Rebeca Reachi Lugo is a vascular surgeon in Mexico. Based on her own experiences, as well as the responses of 150 other Mexican vascular surgeons to a 10-question survey she conducted, Reachi Lugo tells Vascular News what life is like for a vascular surgeon in Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic. She reports a common fear of infecting family members and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), but also a passion for the profession and a duty to save lives. “We are not heroes, we are professionals,” she concludes.
How are you? How is your family? These are the two questions I have been receiving most frequently over the last two months and are the same questions I have been asking others. When you ask me how it feels to be a doctor in these difficult times, I have mixed feelings. Consequently, I decided to survey 150 Mexican vascular surgeons. With ten short questions I confirmed that most of us feel the same way as I do.
Here in Mexico, only 12% (18/150) have seen and treat patients who are COVID-19 positive, while 74% (111/150) said they have not seen COVID-19 positive patients. Fourteen percent do not know if the patient who they attended to was infected or not, because here just a few patients have been tested. Despite this, 83% (125/150) of vascular surgeons say they are willing to care for infected patients, with only 4% (6/150) saying they are not, and 13% (19/150) who do not know.
The greatest fear of 63% (94/150) of respondents is infecting their families, followed by concern for the Mexican economy (11%), and the lack of work and the decrease in income (10%), the fear of dying (9%), and the fear of becoming infected (7%).
Fifty-six percent (84/150) of respondents report having to buy PPE with their own money. Indeed, 57% (85/150) of vascular surgeons report not having sufficient equipment such as N-95 masks, goggles, or PPE.
Fifty-two percent (78/150) of vascular surgeons asked enjoy being with family and try to be positive, and try to keep their minds busy so as not to get stressed. Just under thirty percent feel that thinking about the future makes them feel stressed, but at the same time 17% are enjoying the free time to something they never have time to do, and 5% report becoming more religious.
Sixty-one percent (91/150) do not agree with how the government and the health secretary have handled the pandemic.
To conclude, I can tell you that for all of us these are difficult times, not only in Mexico. There may be differences between us, but this disease took away our security, has taken us out of our comfort zone, and changed our lives, and we know we may lose someone beloved. Nearly all of us have the same fears, but also a passion for our profession and a knowledge that we choose this kind of life. We are not heroes, we are just professionals, working in our dream job of being useful and saving lives.
Moreover, I finish by telling you that this will pass sooner or later, and we are going to be different, be I am sure that we are going to be stronger. For now, just keep safe.
Rebeca Reachi Lugo is a vascular surgeon at the Hospital Beneficencia Española in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.