When a 33-year-old lies unconscious in front of you, it’s never a good sign. This 33-year-old, female patient was found unresponsive by her family. Despite trying medications for possible reversible causes, she did not wake up. She turned out to be an unfortunate case of catastrophic stroke. By the time I saw her, she had fixed, dilated pupils, no reflexes, and no movements. She was brought to the ICU to do more, only to realize there was nothing more available for her. She was already on a ventilator and the maximum doses of four pressors, which were barely able to keep her BP to 40 systolic. She eventually succumbed to her disease.
I am Sandipan Shringi, MD, a final-year resident in Internal Medicine at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. I am originally from a small town in India. My path towards medical practice began when I was 16 years old. As you will learn, my journey as a physician began dangerously and has taken unexpected paths.
It was Match Day! I’d been waiting for this day for three long years. As I opened the email with my trembling hands, I saw it. I refreshed the email to make sure it was real. I felt a roller coaster of emotions: I was elated, surprised, and relieved all at the same time. It was my dream come true. I matched to a university program in Boston. The next few days, I kept myself busy with paperwork and family celebrations. And then it hit me that I was going to leave my cocoon of comfort and move 7,984 miles away from home.
I was born and raised in Costa Rica, a small country in Central America with close to 5 million inhabitants. I was always passionate about science, and after debating for a long time, I decided to pursue training in medicine. I did my medical school in San José, Costa Rica, at the Universidad de Costa Rica. I also completed a residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Critical Care in my home country.
On March 17, 2020, our institution was designated as the nation’s first dedicated care center for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Our patient population would now be only individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and required hospitalization, either from our emergency department, or from other hospitals within our network. My experience with COVID was, at that point, scarce and limited to discussions with my senior colleagues and the case reports from China and Italy.