Finding Resilience During a Pandemic

Listen 49:47
New Jersey coronavirus response

Dr. Clenton Coleman adjusts his mask inside the ICU of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, March 19, 2020. (Jeff Rhode /Holy Name Medical Center)

What does it take to get through a global pandemic? How do you keep going, keep working, get up every day and hope for the best? Around the world, people are discovering the answer through their own sense of resilience — the resources within ourselves and our communities that brace us against outside pressures, allowing us to bend, and not break. On this episode, we explore what resilience means, with stories about people facing down sometimes impossible situations, and finding a way to adapt, recover, and eventually bounce back. We hear about an Olympic athlete who is dealing with the historic postponement of Tokyo 2020, an ER nurse in New York City treating patients with COVID-19, and we’ll find out why kids may emerge stronger on the other side of this pandemic.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • David Fajgenbaum was in medical school when he was diagnosed with Castleman disease — a rare and deadly illness with no known cure. We hear about Fajgenbaum’s extraordinary fight to not only survive, but find a possible cure. Since we reported that story, Fajgenbaum has begun to work on finding a possible treatment for the cytokine storms that occur with both Castleman and COVID-19. You can read more about David Fajgenbaum’s journey in his book: “Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope Into Action.”
  • Michael Ungar — a therapist, social work professor, and director of the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University — explains how community and social structure play into our shared resilience.
  • An average day in the emergency room is never easy, and during a pandemic, the stakes are even higher — with more patients needing critical care. ER nurse and audio producer Kate O’Connell shares what it’s like working on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak in the Transom series “Pandemic ER: Notes From A Nurse In Queens.” We also hear from Donna Nickitas, dean and professor of nursing at Rutgers University-Camden, on what nurses can do to get through this tough time.
  • Primary care practices play an important role as a first line of defense with our health in general, but the pandemic could threaten their survival. Dan Gorenstein, host of the podcast Tradeoffs, explains why these providers are facing tough choices to keep their doors open.
  • During this pandemic, many friends and colleagues have turned to Aisha Ahmad, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, to share her experiences adapting to and surviving war zones and disease outbreaks around the world. She’s writing a series of essays for The Chronicle of Higher Education and recorded her advice for us.
  • How are kids dealing with all of this — not going to school, not seeing their friends, and their parents being all kinds of stressed out? We check in with Kim Wheeler Poitevien, a clinical social worker in Philadelphia, on the resiliency of children.

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