Forging past fear during COVID-19

Kelly Cawcutt, MD

This is a blog authored by Kelly Cawcutt, MD, MS, on her personal website. It is unedited and shared with permission from Dr. Cawcutt.

Writing has been an outlet for me as long as I can remember. Writing stories, writing in a journal as an adult, or sometimes simply writing lists.

Lately, most of what I write are drafted emails, policies and protocols in response to COVID-19.

Yet, the urge has been there to write something more. Simmering just under the surface, like the magma from a volcano before it explodes. And the explosion is not only coming, it is here. It is COVID-19.

This infection has changed life as we know it now, and frankly, life will never be the same again. Just as the black plague, the 1918 influenza pandemic, and let’s be honest, even the world wars that this is being compared to, changed the world. This will too. It already has.

But, as an infectious diseases and critical care physician, a wife, a mom, a daughter, an extended family member, a friend, there are a few things I really want to tell you.

Thank you

Thank you for doing your part. For practicing social distancing. For donating masks, gloves and supplies for hospitals. For dropping off food for those in need. For sharing SCIENCE and not hearsay. Thank you for asking the hard questions and getting answers from reputable sources. This is a hard for us all. Staying home is hard. Going out is dangerous for everyone. There are incredible sacrifices being made, lives are being lost, and we need everyone’s help.

In health care, in all our communities, we need you – now more than ever. I need you.

Thank you for all that you are doing to help, when, where and how, you can.


The fear and the anxiety are real. We are all pulled like a fraying string. Tight, wound up, and fragile. I feel it too. I find myself in the depths of unfathomable questions I never would have imagined a year ago. Yes, I worry about what happens if I get COVID-19. I worry about what it means for my family and my future patients who need me. But, I also know that I cannot live and work from a place of fear. Fear can drive us to do the wrong thing. It can make us fear each other instead of gathering as a community to fight this. It can lead to poor decisions out of desperation and thinking anything is better than nothing. In medicine, the concept that anything that might work is better than nothing is often incorrect. MANY medications sometimes ARE worse than nothing. We have seen this before. Do not fall prey to false hopes. Now more than ever, we need science to drive safety. I promise you, the global community is racing faster than I have ever experienced, or truly dreamed possible, to answer these question. And we will.

We must forge past the fear, breathe, and allow science to guide us.

Forge past the fear, get information from reputable sources, call someone you know that has good answers if you need. And yes, you can call me. I will answer the call – in every way that I can.


Why does it seem like the story is changing every day? Why are the news stories changing so fast? Doesn’t anyone know what they are doing?

The story is changing every day because the story IS changing every day. Every single day, yes, there are new cases, more deaths, more updates. Every day we write new policies and procedures to help provide the highest standard of care, with the highest level of safety, for the ever-changing tsunami level tide that is COVID-19. Every day, new science is published, new ideas are raised and with that, the story evolves. This is a story my grandchildren will hear, the 2020 global pandemic of COVID-19. That story is being re-written, with new sentences added, daily. I hope the future knows how hard we worked to write the best story we could, from the worst of times we have faced. I hope you know that too.


All great stories end with a lesson. Some fill us with joy. Others with inspiration. And others leave us uneasy. I expect perhaps you may still feel that unease, but I hope to shift you slightly toward gratitude.

I have never seen the camaraderie and collegiality in medicine, and around the globe, that I am seeing today. I have never been more grateful for the support of my family, friends, colleagues and community as they rise to fight an unseen foe. In a digital age, I am so grateful that we are all reminded of how much human interaction matters. How much we all matter.

I have never been more grateful for full grocery stores, a box of surgical masks or a bar of soap.

Find gratitude for the day and moment you are in now.

Our next breath has never been promised, that has been true since the day we were born. We are just far more aware of it now.