September 16, 2020

NAMI is partnering with #FirstRespondersFirst to raise awareness about the importance of mental health in frontline health care and public safety professionals. In today's blog, Dr. Rishi Chopra shares how his family has been impacted by COVID and how they have come together to support each other.

Our frontline health workers are the first responders in the fight against the coronavirus. These health professionals will also be our guides and community allies on the road to our full recovery as a healthy nation. Thrive Global is sharing their inspiring stories.

I am a dermatology resident in Brooklyn. I specialize in treating the skin. However, I have now been deployed to work as a physician in a COVID unit.

Honestly, it’s starting to wear on me. This has been the most difficult two months of my life — personally and professionally. To see so many pronounce this pandemic as overblown and hear increasing calls to reopen our country — and then see N.Y.C.’s parks crowded with people without masks — it leaves you feeling discouraged.⁣

I promise you. It is not overblown. It has had a very real impact. Especially in my own family.

Over the last two months, I’ve lived in constant fear about the safety of my sister (I.C.U. doctor), brother (emergency medicine doctor), and father (urgent care doctor) who are all N.Y.C. frontline physicians. I’ve watched my father and sister fall sick to the virus from treating patients with insufficient PPE. To watch my baby sister complete shift after shift with her chin up, and not a single complaint of the physical and emotional toll I know this is taking on her, has been one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. My mom was forced to move out of the house once my dad became ill, and my sister and I both moved home to do everything in our power to prevent him from being hospitalized.

Simultaneously, I was redeployed to work on the front lines in a Brooklyn COVID unit, which has entailed long hours, caring for critical patients, watching core residents fall sick, dealing with unexpected death, and communicating to families that their loved ones have passed.⁣

Yes, the devastation of COVID has been very real.

I also lost my grandfather to a six-week battle with COVID-19. It has left me feeling guilty that I couldn’t completely be there for him, that the last time he saw me, I was covered head to toe in PPE. And that the last time I held his hand, it was through a glove.⁣

This pandemic has hit our family hard. It has been physically and emotionally exhausting. And for those who still don’t believe it: Yes, the devastation of COVID has been very real.

I made a commitment to myself to just “do good” — and knowing that I’m doing this for my city, for my patients, for my community has helped me stay positive.

To protect my own mental well-being, I do yoga every morning and meditate. By the time I return from work, I’m usually physically and mentally exhausted. If I have the strength, I’ll go for a quick run.

Exercising, eating healthy, and the support from my family has helped me stay resilient in these times.

My family has been a pillar of strength during this time. As we are all on the front lines, we’re all going through similar experiences together. Via phone call, text, FaceTime, Instagram, WhatsApp, you name it, we are constantly sharing our experiences and helping each other shoulder the burden of the traumas to get through this.

In our free time, we have been very active helping secure PPE for some of N.Y.C.’s hardest hit hospitals through a network of medical school classmates that are now physicians all around the country. My sister’s Brooklyn apartment served as a storage warehouse for PPE shipped from donors from all over. And our team was able to secure almost 6,000 N95 masks, 600 face shields, and 1,000 surgical gowns for intensive care units and emergency departments at seven different hospitals in New York City.

Commitment to positivity and just “doing good” has helped me push through these challenging times.

Click here for information about how Thrive Global is supporting our healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and find out how you can support the cause by donating to #FirstRespondersFirst.

If you’re a first responder and want to share your story, email us at [email protected]. Please note, a Thrive editor may contact you to hear more about your story, and your submission may be edited for length or clarity before publication. By submitting your story, video, or pictures, you are agreeing for Thrive to publish your submission(s) if selected, and agreeing to the Thrive Global Privacy Policy. You can find more guidelines here.

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