When Standing By is Best

Orthopaedic surgeons are used to taking action—to fix, to heal, to relieve pain. But how are orthopods temporarily sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic coping with inaction? In the latest JBJS “What’s Important” essay, Jonathan P. Keeve, MD answers that question candidly and compassionately.

“Watching the pandemic unfold, without the ability to immediately jump in as we often do, is an overwhelming challenge,” writes Dr. Keeve, who has ample experience practicing in resource-limited environments and disaster scenarios, including on the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Comfort off the coast of Haiti after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. But even in those difficult settings, the wounds were visible, established triage protocols existed, and proven treatments were available.

COVID-19 is an entirely different entity. It’s invisible to the naked eye, and delivering the only proven treatment—supportive care—is becoming more difficult every day as hospitals struggle to keep up. In addition, as Dr. Keeve notes, “Every hour, this viral infection is taking down our nursing and medical colleagues, our compatriots, our first responders, and our brothers and sisters at the hospitals.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Keeve and many other orthopaedic surgeons sit on the sidelines, calling patients on the phone to check in on them and advise them. “To stand by is torment, but it is in the best interest of public health,” he writes.

To his healthcare colleagues on the front lines of COVID-19, Dr. Keeve says, “Please know that our hearts and spirits are with you. While [many] orthopaedists are not at the forefront of this battle, … like my colleagues, I remain ready to help in any way possible. For now, despite how difficult it is, that may require standing by.”

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