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Dr. Andrew Healey: A family affair


June 15, 2020 - Hospital Family Story, Stories

Dr. Andrew Healey is fighting COVID-19 from two sides. As Osler’s Interim Corporate Chief of Emergency Medicine and Chair of the COVID Clinical Response Committee, much of his work is administrative, but as a critical care physician, he’s also serving on the frontlines. When the pandemic hit, 20-hour days were not uncommon. He recognized early on that having support would be crucial in navigating the stress and uncertainty of facing a global health crisis head on.

“At the beginning of this I started seeing a counselor to try and prevent PTSD, which I thought was possible depending on how bad our pandemic was going to be, the amount of death we were going to see and the seemingly—initially at least—randomness of the disease that would be very difficult to cope with,” he says. “That support was very helpful.”

His most important support system, however, is his wife and four children: Peter, Thomas, Megan and Kate, a transplant recipient who received part of her mother’s liver when she was just four months old. Dr. Healey’s parents-in-law, both in their late 60s, also live with the family, so safety is always top of mind—both at work and home.

“I've intubated nearly 25 patients with COVID,” he says. “Coming home after being on clinical service and intubating these people, at least initially, gave me lots of anxiety. I developed a routine when I came home—derobe in the porch, clothes in the washer, straight to the shower—to try and not bring the virus home, but early on in the pandemic we agreed as a family we couldn't live apart. I didn't think I could sustain that level of psychological independence—I need the support of my family.

“Having also done the administrative work, I felt confident the PPE worked,” he says. “I trusted my colleagues in infection control to provide expert guidance and I follow that guidance.”

Dr. Healey takes pride in the way Osler responded to the pandemic, with quick and nimble action that ensured the hospital system was prepared for the worst.

“The pandemic is a place where we've got to be able to act very quickly, to move things quickly—up, down, sideways—whatever you have to do,” he says. “We had to act decisively and in terms of our policy decisions we were often a step ahead. We had a large population of people who were affected by COVID, so we learned very quickly how to manage this.”

More recently, Dr. Healey says he’s seeing a slow return to the way things were before the pandemic, such as busier days in the Emergency Department. “Mondays and Wednesdays tend to be the busiest days in the Emergency Department, but Mondays and Wednesdays didn't matter in the pandemic. Now we're starting to see a return to that normal,” he says.

As we look forward to brighter days ahead, Dr. Healey acknowledges a bit of positivity left behind by the pandemic. “I think we've started to see an appreciation for people who were less visible in the organization,” he says. “There's an understanding of how absolutely critical those people are to the operation of the building by people who never thought about that before.”

To celebrate and say thank you to all Health Care Heroes, Dr. Healey and his family have performed a special Father’s Day concert. “We wanted to reflect a little bit on families who have been under stress, health care providers who are coming home to their children, administrators and professionals in our organizations who have been working so hard and also have been risking getting COVID at the front line.”

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