The coronavirus was merely a blip on the health care radar screen when I informed HMP Global in mid-January that I would be stepping down as editor of this journal. I gave what I called “soft notice”; although I was anxious to test the enticing waters of “me” time, I was in no particular hurry to say goodbye to my editorial responsibilities and to all of you. I promised the company to stay on board for as long as it would take to secure the right replacement and transfer my duties, and my offer to freelance edit was met enthusiastically. Gazing at my picture-laden office walls and well-worn M&M dispenser (many Editorial Board members will remember when I presented them as a thank you for insightful manuscript reviews), I thought the hardest part of leaving after almost 20 years would be hugging my coworkers farewell and deciding to whom I should bequeath the candy machine.
Then along came COVID and the emails that sequentially stated, The office is officially closed and all employees will work from home until April… until May… until indefinitely. Words like social distancing and quarantine insinuated themselves into increasingly stilted agendas. Retiring remotely. What an interesting concept to ponder.
In the weeks—now months—since I announced my pending departure, sickness, statistics, and stress have created an international psyche of palpable panic and fear. We have all been infected in some way with this virus: its true victims (patients and their families); the blessed clinicians and first responders on the front lines of this nightmare, stretched beyond their physical and psychological limits; essential workers who make sure we have groceries and garbage removal; kids who have had to embrace virtual learning without the sustaining embraces of their beloved teachers (and the teachers who had to learn on the fly how to instruct via iPad); business owners and workers severed from their livelihood; graduates of all ages who won’t be donning caps and gowns; couples and families wanting to celebrate life events or say final farewells; populations largely out of work, going hungry, wondering when the next shoe will drop. Even those of us who have the audacity to regret how a career is ending… the trickle-down effect is evident in the trickle down of tears shed from more emotions than we could ever name.
Working from home has meant long days at my son’s childhood desk, trying to conduct business as usual under the most unusual circumstances. I’ve had more to do than ever: daily Zoom meetings, initiated by our publisher, kept staff in touch. Manuscripts became articles. The Wound Care Learning Network blossomed, fed by new Resource Centers and COVID-19 articles. Podcasts were born. The Symposium on Advanced Wound Care eventually became a virtual event. Board members asked to share their pandemic-related experiences spoke of their frustration that they couldn’t do more and of their own recoveries from the virus; we posted their insights to social media. Screening job applicants took on a whole new meaning. This was not my typical work from home routine, underscored by the fact that my husband was also home, amputated from his business (closed per our governor’s orders) and was bereft and bored. This certainly was not how I anticipated spending my final days as editor.
I wonder which is more troublesome —remote endings or remote beginnings? Your new editor, Christiane Odyniec, will spend at least the first 2 weeks in the job out of the office. Like many new employees, hers will be baptism by fire, somewhat mediated by the technology that connects us but (hopefully, temporarily) devoid of first-day lunches, tours of the office, and in-person introductions and assurances that she will be great. Until the office reopens, she will function exclusively in cyberspace (is that even a term anymore?) —there will be no manila folders with printed testimony to manuscript progression/improvement, no sticky note reminders, no red pen/yellow highlighter except as Microsoft Office functions. I expect we will chat frequently as she gets acquainted with her responsibilities, the industry, and all of you. I am debating whether to leave the M&M dispenser to her.
I am exquisitely thankful to have family, a home, food, friends, dare I say ... paper products, and most of all (so far) our collective health. Unlike so many others, for me, COVID-19 has been, thus far, pretty much just a surreal inconvenience. For that, I am overwhelmingly grateful. I am hopeful that research will provide treatments, cures, and preventive vaccines and that someday soon we will be able, once again, to hug. I so miss hugs.
The opinions and statements expressed herein are specific to the respective authors and not necessarily those of Wound Management & Prevention or HMP. This article was not subject to the Wound Management & Prevention peer-review process.