Reflections on caring for cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

I think the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is one of the most serious – and important – times of our generation. Right now, as the U.S. heads toward the peak of daily new cases, we’re in the thick of long and lonely days. I’ve seen and lived this firsthand the last couple of weeks while I’ve been rounding on MD Anderson’s inpatient leukemia unit. When it’s all said and done, I think we’ll truly recognize the enormity of what we’re going through. Appreciating the power of human connection during the coronavirus pandemic Since I started my April rounds, I’ve realized the power of human connection and touch. Even though most of our patients don’t have COVID-19, they are all still greatly affected by it. Leukemia patients often have to be hospitalized for extended periods of time. They may be in the hospital for weeks while facing complications from their cancer and treatment. Like most other hospitals in the U.S., MD Anderson has temporarily restricted visitors to protect our patients and workforce from COVID-19. Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. And our leukemia patients and stem cell transplant recipients are uniquely vulnerable because the rigorous treatment they undergo weakens their immune system, often for a long time. It’s necessary, but devastating, for most of our leukemia and stem cell transplant patients to be alone right now due to social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions. Over the past few weeks, I’ve witnessed how hard it is for someone to receive bad news without a loved one beside them for support, and I have seen our faculty and...