COVID-19 From an Athlete and Physician

Story submitted by Stephanie Casey, D.O.’12 and originally posted on her blog.

So much has changed over the last few weeks, it is hard to know where to start. For those following my race walking, I was selected in February to compete on the US National Team at the World Race Walking Team Championships that was scheduled to take place the beginning of May in Minsk, Belarus. I had taken some time to recover from my hamstring injuries and was starting to ramp back up my training for this international competition when I first heard mention of COVID-19. I went about training for roughly a four-week period during which I watched more and more international races be postponed or canceled secondary to the pandemic, knowing that my race was on the line as well. We got word on Friday the 13th that the World Team Championship was indeed postponed, and all other foreseeable racing opportunities quickly followed. Last week the announcement was made regarding the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games to the summer of 2021. I am still having a hard time comprehending how quickly this entire season has crumbled and what this means for me as an athlete.

Katie Burnett and I working together during the 2020 US women’s 50km national championships 25 January in Santee, CA

As my athletic pursuits for the year slowly fade away, I am watching the intensification of the pandemic from a healthcare perspective. At the time I am writing this, we do not yet have a case of COVID-19 in our small, rural community but it is most likely coming. My job as a family practice physician has entirely changed from spending afternoons seeing patients in clinic to spending a day or two a week doing telephone visits while we navigate day by day the ever-changing landscape of our new economic situation and the untold effects that it is having on rural hospitals nationwide. 

What my patients want from me has changed as well. They no longer want to talk about their diabetes or high blood pressure (maybe they never did), they want to talk about the devastation happening in their lives and the lives of those they love. They want to know what they should and shouldn’t be doing, where they should and shouldn’t be going, and what they need to be doing to keep themselves safe. Mostly they are looking for reassurance, reassurance that things are not really going to be that bad and that they will be okay and that we will all make it through this. A reassurance that I am less and less able to offer as I watch the effects of COVID-19 on countries around the world and cities right here in the US. I want to offer the endless hope that they are looking for, but the truth is that I don’t know what lies ahead, I am taking this day by day along with the rest of you.

And then there is the innocence of my children, who just want to be able to go to school, go to church, go to their dance classes, play outside with their friends. Even the beaches and hiking trails around us are closed. I wish that I could give them back the world the way it used to be, just a month ago when we took so much for granted. One thing that I have been learning day by day is how incredibly much that I have to be grateful for. 

My oldest daughter: “I am bored and hate covid-19 bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla”

So what do we do now? One day at a time. I have gone back to training basics without a race on the calendar and no knowledge of when the next one will be. I am visualizing an ideal 2021 season and how I want to prepare myself for what remains at this time a great unknown in the athletic world. I am caring for my patients the best ways that I can with our current system and preparing myself to be by their sides if and when COVID-19 shows up here. I am working to teach my children to be grateful, to be generous, to fold the laundry, and to do the dishes-lessons that they have not yet learned in school. It is all one day at a time.

One thing is for sure, the only hope that we have is in God, He is the only one that we can look to during this time and know for sure what our future holds. For those of us who believe in Him and His Son Jesus who died for us, we have our forever home in heaven to look forward to no matter what this world may bring. May we never loose sight of what really matters.

And to end with a statement from one of my patients last week, “You are still laughing. I know it can’t be that bad because you are still laughing”. Hang in there everyone, know where your joy comes from, and be reassured that despite it all, yes I am still laughing.

My youngest and I laughing together out on the beach the day before beaches were closed
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