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Giving Thanks in a Changed World

Author: Michelle McGovern, General Counsel
November 2021
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When I first learned that I was having twins, I worried about everything: where we would put two cribs in our already-cramped Brooklyn apartment, how our son would adjust to two new additions, and how on earth we were going to get three children into snowsuits. Would we ever leave the house in January again?

Then a global pandemic ground the world to a halt. As a healthcare lawyer supporting early-stage startups, I stayed home, hunched over my computer, while I helped clients navigate telehealth pivots, contact tracing, and HIPAA waivers. I took breaks for third trimester scans, and to watch the delivery-date delays for our baby furniture extend for weeks, and then months. 

When I started to feel sick in April 2020, I nervously unwrapped cough drops and brewed lemon tea. When I tested positive for COVID-19, my concerns about cramped apartments and snowsuits seemed very far away. Quaint, even.

I was sick for almost two months, relying on a network of family, friends, and masked doctors speaking through the screen of my iPhone. One friend dropped off a hard-to-find pulse oximeter, and another — a neonatologist — called me daily to check its numbers. Neighbors left tea and soup, and cheerful tulips, at my door. Every night without fail, my mom would call. We would discuss the dire news of the pandemic’s earliest days, and worry together.

On May 8, my husband and I packed overnight bags and drove across the Brooklyn Bridge,  through an eerily silent city. As late-spring snow fell, we welcomed two tiny, perfect daughters in the COVID-19 ward of Weill Cornell Medical Center, overlooking New York’s East River. The view was the same as it had been five years earlier, when our son was born — but everything else had changed. 

My husband and I and our daughters — who, together, weighed less than 9 pounds — spent three days in isolation. We were visited only by doctors and nurses who had to change their full-body PPE every time they entered or left the room. At first, we were shaken by the unimaginable circumstances of the girls’ first days. However, as time wore on and they began to grow and then thrive, we were grateful for our relative luck in the midst of so much fear and uncertainty. 

By accident of time, and of place, my daughters and I became the subjects of observational studies that helped set the standard of care for newborns during a pandemic. As a healthcare lawyer, it was a privilege to give back to the people, and the institutions, that have given me professional purpose and a meaningful career.  

As a patient, and the mother of three children who lived in the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., I was grateful for every person who played a role in our story — from the pediatric immunologist who helped us navigate our daughters’ first days; to the nurses whose smiles shone through three separate face coverings; to the team who took our temperatures at check-in, facing illness with each new visitor, but welcoming us just the same.

This Thanksgiving, we will gather with our loved ones in a safer world, thanks to science, research, and the tenacity of healthcare professionals. It will be my daughters’ first Thanksgiving in my hometown, where they can chase their cousins and try my mom’s sweet potatoes — my favorite part of the meal. 

It will also be my first holiday at Verana Health. As I’ve moved from study subject to study supporter, I am proud to work with people elevating the quality of care, generating data insights with integrity, and supporting clinical research that has the potential to change lives.  I have so much to be grateful for this year  — as a patient, as a mom, and as a proud Veranan.