New Podcast: Julia Wattacheril | Caring for the Caretakers

Julia Wattacheril is a hepatologist—a liver doctor—but in April she found herself walking into her first shift working with COVID patients during the peak of the pandemic in New York City. She describes what she and many other health care workers experienced during the peak of the pandemic and what they continue to experience as they care for those hit the hardest by COVID 19.


I really enjoyed this podcast. Her love for her neighbors was very convicting. I’m not really certain of the purpose for prayer but even so, how she walks her neighborhood praying for them all I realized I have never done that once. I pray for others I Know. I pray when I see accidents and hear of tragedies but to be honest it feels fake to me because I’m not a very empathetic person and when I feel no connection to anyone it just feels more like words and not a plea, especially since 99.99% of prayers for absolutely unnoticed and often even opposite of what I want. But her love and consideration for her loved ones was touching and I think that I need to start doing that because maybe it will also help me keep a healthier paradigm because I dislike most of them.

I have always assumed though that nurses , and professionals in general with specialized skills, can grow a bit weary of always being asked questions. I have to remind employees constantly not to bring up personal issues with clients just because they specialize in something. Don’t ask the doctors to look at your foot, eye, and hand everyday and don’t ask lawyers all kinds of legal questions and vent to them your problems and so on while we are working on their houses and yards. Some don’t mind and some do especially when it’s detailed and requires 30+ minutes of conversation. There are many in our church who specialize with skills and I make sure to not just ask them every question I have. Especially not the mechanics lol.

I am sorry to hear about her friend and if it’s in NY times , I think that’s what was said, and she believes her story should be read I’ll try to remember and find it after work.

Julia has an amazing story, and it’s similar to the MANY workers, and I’m so glad that one of these voices has been given the opportunity to share on this podcast!
I appreciated the practical advice- I will be more aware of letting healthcare workers be people when they’re not on shift, and today, my kids are having a blast coloring thank you cards to safely deliver to a local hospital! A lot of rainbows, unicorn kitties, and scribble spiders are being drawn :slight_smile:

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What an articulate and sobering walk through the health care issues and trials from a brilliant young woman. Her discussion around triage and the unknown factors she had to deal with to manage the staff got me to thinking of another question. Like her situation it is one that can only be asked from an aloof place ‘not looking into the eyes of the dying’.
I ask the question to see if any one has landed on a triage type decision process and path forward to restoring commerce. Ultimately triage principles on a hospital floor are the same that should be applied to a country’s future. Is there a point where the cost of hospital overcrowding, health care staff burnout, displaced surgeries for those who need it, and so on - is far far far far outweighed by the suffering and loss of income, 3000 percent increase in abuse calls (at least in the major city I am close to in Canada); suicides; business failures that will ripple through for years (and on and on and on). What decision process and triage data would you bring to a time where you release restrictions and move to saving the ABC’s of an economy and therefore the well being of a country BEFORE it is in death throes? I am curious and it seems like a good place to ask an honest question looking for thoughtful responses from Julia’s triage pragmatism standpoint instead of emotional backlash you might get in social media. The question I raised when restrictions first came was ‘when will it ever be good enough to lift them’ from a stats point of view? Will there be anything left to lift them for is another? To be clear I am not an alarmist advocating for mask free no hand cleaner rights etc etc it is just that … a question. Is it the wrong question - is there an incorrect assumption that we are marching towards economic meltdown or is there naivety in thinking we are not? How can we tell?

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Hi PJ. Welcome to the Forum. You ask a very difficult question. It is too easy to simply say “A life is worth saving no matter the cost”, because we obviously do employ such cost-benefit considerations. In my own life, I can tell you that I would spare no expense to save the life of my grandson (and others in my immediate family); yet that is not the same for someone I don’t know. We all know that giving money to relief agencies saves lives. For example, there can be a pretty direct correlation between the amount of money an agency spends digging wells with clean water and the number of people in that community who don’t die. Philosophers sometimes refer to this as “moral proximity” – those to whom I have a moral obligation. It’s pretty tough to justify on Christian principles that we have no obligation to people on the other side of the world (or the other side of town!); but that’s pretty clearly how we live. So those people outside of my moral proximity become statistics, and we have to do the best we can to distribute resources equitably among them.

I listened to a Planet Money podcast last summer that discussed how the government (at least some agencies within) balances the costs of safety measures vs. the number of lives they would save. And at that time, we were no where close to the point you mention where the cost of saving some people from COVID outweighs the economics. But as you mention, there are other costs to the shut-downs.

One point I feel pretty strongly about, though, is that it should not be up to people like me, people who have very minor risks from COVID, to say: “hey you old people, you need to sacrifice your lives so that the rest of us can have a decent economy.” We might, if we are truly selfless, say that we’re willing to risk our own well-being (which could be economic, or physical, or emotional), for the good of other people. But I’m not comfortable insisting that other people should risk their well-being for the sake of our own.

Of course there is much more to analyze here. Like I said: difficult question.


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