My name is Dr. Plastic Picker and I am so mad at the world right now. I am mad at anti-maskers. I am mad at our national leadership. I am mad at every adult on Facebook that shared COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Yes, this is America and you have free speech. But you are also an adult, and as an adult you have to watch what you say as your words have consequences. All those words and Facebook memes have sowed doubt into our country and has fueled the spread of COVID-19. We are entering another wave of this pandemic.
We are almost 2 months into COVID-19 quarantine, and there is positive news for the environment. Flamingos blanket the mudflats of Mumbai and turtles are nesting freely on empty beaches. Initially I thought these reports were overblown, but I’ve seen the increasing number of backyard birds and my sister describes deer and racoons taking over her Virginia neighborhood. Dr. Plastic Picker has to be careful with these posts, because hope for the environment has to be balanced with compassion for the human lives loss due to COVID-19 and repercussions of the downspiraling economy. So rather than celebrating the financial losses of the cruise and airline industries, I focus on the secondary environmental benefits of all of us living through a time of scarcity.
I did write one non-Covid 19 post this weekend about parrots, which was very fun https://drplasticpicker.com/parrots-of-pacific-beach/. But even that post was tangentially related to Covid 19 because I only noticed the parrots because the single-use plastic gloves were around our neighborhood. That got me thinking about all the things that I have done only because of this quarantine. It’s almost the 6th week of our self quarantine, although Mr. Plastic Picker and I are still going to work.
Chris was my anatomy lab partner during our first year of medical school. We had the right side of the cadaver of a 90-something-year-old woman, and across from us was Felipe and Andrew. Felipe was the son of a Nobel Prize winning chemist. He was always a more morose soul, and would disappear after class. He made it through and I believe is an internist in New York. Andrew was very slim and handsome, and dated a fellow student who was beautiful and smart. They broke up before the Residency Match as they were applying in very competitive fields. I believe the beautiful girlfriend is an ophthalmologist now. Andrew stayed at one of the teaching hospitals as an academic specialist. It is ironic because he used to talk about the stock market and money a lot.
Even before medical school, Mr. Plastic Picker and I were already together and had been dating for 3 years in college. We were planning our lives together. I studied harder in the last few years of college so I could attend the same medical school as Mr. Plastic Picker. Life worked out. He was initially a year ahead of me at school, and when I was starting my first year of medical school – he purposefully took an extra year of research so that we could be in sync during our training. He was having a relatively relaxed time driving around putting on event monitors on volunteer study subjects with varying Bostonian accents. His lab was studying the effects of air pollution on cardiovascular events. He was there to support me, and talk me through the first year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely proven how powerful Facebook physician groups are. There are three main COVID-19 MD-only Facebook groups, and the clinical discussions, mutual assistance and advice is phenomenal. These are doctors helping other doctors, because we are all trying to save our communities. I was Zoom chatting with engineers from Hewlett Packard yesterday, and they were asking for information on what designs and equipment the medical community needed. I honestly told them, everything is on these Facebook groups. CNN is at least 48 hours behind these groups.
But one of the primary COVID-19 MD Facebook groups has 21,000 members! It can be a whirlwind of journal articles, posts, tutorial videos on how to make PPE and comments. There are journalist on the fringes, friends or spouses of members, and suddenly a post will receive a few comments and is then featured on a major news outlet. This is usually with permission of the commenters of course. You can see the pandemic coming toward you, as MDs from the current hot spots give us a preview of what is to come. One post that has been shared and copied multiple times has mentioned that on “Day 10 of illness Cytokine storm leading to acute ARDS and multiorgan failure. You can literally watch it happen in a matter of hours,” wrote the internist.
One of the bright spots of becoming Dr. Plastic Picker is since I have my own blog and a catchy internet handle, I can comment on some personal finance blogs that I have been reading for over a decade. When I was a young resident taking NICU call, I would look around me and analyze people’s financial lives. I realized that these super smart physicians that were training me were not as well-versed in personal finance. Some of the smartest ones went over to the dark side and sold their souls to pharmaceutical companies. You see, I am the daughter of an accountant and successful small-business owner. I absorbed my attending physicians’ lessons regarding medicine, but disregarded much of what they said about finances or real estate. Except Dr. Young-Ho Yoon, who advised me to start my Roth IRA https://drplasticpicker.com/dr-young-ho-yoon-pediatrian-and-environmentalist-1/. That guy is smart with his money.
Did the picture above catch your attention? It’s a bit odd. The large stuffed animal/bean bag animal is some kind of anime/Pokemon formerly loved object my millenial brother dropped off at my house. His 2-bedroom-2-bath downtown condo was getting too filled, and he passed this on to us. It’s an interesting piece of human artifact. Honestly, I did it more to keep it out of the landfill. If you want it , it’s in excellent condition so just let me know and I’ll clean it up (it’s pretty clean) and send it over after the COVID-19 crisis if you have kids who will love it. The other object is a plastic bag I made from scraps of plastic I save. I know it’s weird, but I have embraced my off-kilter personality. The Plastic Picker children consume enormous amounts of clementines now known universally as cuties. They actually do have fiber. My daughter and son pointed out to me about 1.7 grams per clementine https://drplasticpicker.com/squeasy-gear-1-tackling-the-pediatric-fiber-deficit-with-real-fruit-and-not-plastic/. But those cuties come in this god-awful orange plastic mesh bags with an elongated plastic product label strip that is a third the size of a piece of paper. Every time we throw these away, I have this irrational sense of guilt. I think it’s having picked up now 178 bags of ocean bound plastic. I’m not sure how a peditarician who picks up trash and pays my taxes and has not ever had an extramarital affair and never fake-called in a sick-day feels guilt? Not sure what my parents did to me when I was young.
I had purchased these rain barrels about 3 years ago. There was a major discount or rebate when I got them for almost 50% off. I forget the actual numbers. They are also made from 100% recycled plastic. They have served us well and with every downpour they catch gallons of rain that we later use to water the garden. Lettuce, tomatoes, lemons and many other organic delicious vegetables are the result. What I love about these rain barrels is that they were an investment that keeps on generating food and money savings. I just bought the rainbarrels, and my mother-in-law has taken them over and is so eager to use the water she catches as she says it’s better for her garden. I get to benefit from her garden’s bounty.
Dr. Plastic Picker is a little bit worried about COVID-19. Like everyone else I was touting hand-washing,which is the best way to contain the spread, and social distancing, which means stay home if you don’t absolutely need to go somewhere. I am worried not because I am worried about getting Coronavirus, which is a cold virus and given my age and no underlying comorbidities, I will likely have a mild illness. I am worried because I know human nature, and the health care system will only continue to run if health care workers think of ourselves as ESSENTIAL and quarantine ourselves if we need to and to show up to work when we are healthy.
COVID-19 is here. There is a cruiseship docked off the coast of Oakland with several infected persons and in our area there was 1 case at a local AT&T store. Dr. Plastic Picker worked at the CDC offices during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 2000s, but the CDC today is not what it used to be. Messages are coming down from public health, but this lone pediatrician out on the blogsphere is skeptical of our public health leadership and I work as a front-line pediatrician at a large HMO now. I have some infectious disease chops as I did some heavy lifting to stop a Measles case last summer. During that case, I had to panic as Measles is highly infectious and unvaccinated infants were at risk. COVID-19 I am not as panicked since it is spread through contact, and I wash my hands. Also I am a pediatrician and my patients are not the ones at increased risk of death. But we have grandparents with underlying medical conditions so we do want to keep them safe.
Just like I think everyone should all pick up their own litter and maybe an extra 3-10 pieces on the beach, I can’t wait for the federal government or the CDC to mandate things. When I saw the plastic pollution along our beach, I went to the beach and I pick up trash and it makes me feel like I’m doing my part. Now that COVID-19 is here, I know that we all need to practice “social distancing” and I am not waiting until public health tells us to do so. We know how this will spread, by people fanning out to different locations from epicenters. Some travel is necessary. Most is not. The Spanish Flu moved slow throughout the world via train mostly. COVID-19 can spread fast. But our family will not contribute to this spread.