When the coronavirus hit, it was not a shocker that Black and brown communities were struggling.
Bad news, but not surprising. If you just look at the layout of many urban areas — at least in New York, where I live — poorer neighborhoods have a lot of people in small spaces, which is the perfect recipe for rapid viral transmission. In my field, cardiovascular medicine, it has long been known that African American communities are at greater risk for heart disease and strokes, with higher mortality rates. In many cases, they have less access to various levels of health care and are referred for treatment much less frequently.
So I feel as upset and disgusted about disparities in health care quality as I felt before the coronavirus.
During the worst of it, there really wasn't a lot of time to think about coping because we were busy taking care of a lot of patients who were very, very sick. I think most of us health care providers in New York are exhausted emotionally and physically, because it was hard work, but are feeling satisfied that we gave it the best we could. We have colleagues and friends that we shared the experience with, so we're helping each other. We can be each other's support system because we were there in the trenches with each other. We know what we went through.
In short, I'm doing fine. I'm doing fine because of the people I worked with and because of my family. Even more than I talk to my children, they are the ones talking to me about this moment in history. I'm very proud of them for feeling the need to participate in the protests without any prompting. I’m proud of them for doing it in a peaceful way and for being part of the solution.
With my nieces, who are a few years younger, I think it’s important to have very open, honest conversations. I regret not having some of those conversations with my children when they were little. At the time I didn't think we needed to have them, but we should have. Having said that, we’re here now and we're talking, so that's good.
Honestly, what makes me worry at night is my son Max. He is a 19-year-old Black man in America, and Black men are the most vulnerable population in this country. It’s like there’s a bullseye painted on the back of their shirts. So every morning when I get up, I pray, “God, I am begging you, please. Please just keep him safe.”
I’m sure I’m not the only Black mother in the country who does that for her son. We all do it, in some way, shape, or form. I deal with it by praying hard and leaving my son in God’s hands. And I have to be thankful, because so far he’s done a fine job.
Allison McLarty, 58, is cardiothoracic surgeon on Long Island in New York.