Christina (Bunce) Fleming, MSDA Class of 2010, is a Resident Physician – Anesthesiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. A typical day in the hospital for Christina is spent in the Operating Room providing anesthesia for a very busy surgery department, coupled with delivering care in surgical ICUs and airway emergencies throughout the hospital. From setting up the anesthesia equipment, examining and starting IVs for her patients, intubating with breathing tubes when necessary, and waking up patients post-surgery – this cycle repeats several times a day.
Now, during COVID19, the days are “the same yet different. Amidst the craziness, there are still trauma patients requiring surgery; still patients with cancer for whom delaying surgery could mean risking cancer spread; still organs that become available for patients who have been waiting years on transplant lists. It’s for these patients that I don my PPE and continue to do my job.” Christina notes that there still aren’t enough resources to test all patients, so each must be treated as if they are positive for Coronavirus. Since intubation and extubation are very high-risk procedures due to the aerosolized particles released in the air, Christina along with her attending wear N95 masks, face shields and gowns in addition to standard surgical masks and gloves and ask all other OR team members to leave the room in order to decrease the number of individuals exposed. Measures only amplify when treating a patient who is known COVID19 positive.
Christina notes that as Philadelphia braces for a surge that they all pray isn't coming, several areas of the hospital have been converted into ICU space. “I am proud to be a member of the team that will be staffing these converted units along with surgery residents, attending anesthesiologists, and attending surgeons. So many people who have agreed to step out of their normal role and step up to fulfill the need even if it’s out of their comfort zone. I'm extremely proud to be a member of Penn Medicine. Being a healthcare provider is my job; it’s who I am. As anesthesia providers, we are uniquely trained to treat patients in the fast-paced and ever-changing environment of the OR, which makes us adept at responding to acute situations. I never imagined that a crisis of this magnitude would happen but now that its here, I know that its what I've been training for.”
Christina is grateful for all of the support she and her fellow healthcare providers are receiving. “I think I speak for most of us when I say it’s who I am, and I am honored to be able to provide this service.” We are grateful and thank you for your service to others, Christina!