Business Talk: 64 days – How Covid-19 changed me, and my practice
By Anthony Lombardi
I was teaching the last day of an electroacupuncture course in San Diego, California when a colleague texted me: “Get out now – Canada is closing.” Naturally I thought the message was a bit dramatic but soon enough Canadians who were taking my course began to approach me. Things were changing and it was due to the coronavirus.
The next day I took the first flight to Toronto. While waiting for my flight I sat in the United Airlines Lounge and listened to Prime Minister Trudeau explain that Canada was in a state of emergency and all essential services were indefinitely suspended. I contacted my office, and within 35 minutes they rescheduled two weeks of patient appointments – because for some reason everyone thought things would be better by then.
When I returned home there were terms I had to become familiar with: self-isolation, quarantine, homeschooling, social distancing, two-meters apart – toilet paper? Things were eerily different. Once two weeks passed, I began seeing acute pain patients – and there were alot of them. Patients called, text messaged, Facebooked, and Instagrammed.
At first nothing changed at work. I was wearing my regular work clothes, without gloves or a mask. As each week passed the media coverage intensified and my focus turned to personal protection and the protection of my patients. Immediately I started practising with gloves, a procedural mask and a gown. We even erected a plexiglass barrier at our front desk just like the supermarket had done.
At home, my wife and I were learning what Zoom and Web-Ex were all about. My son is six years old, in grade one, and my daughter is three. The first few days were filled with the sounds of Justin Trudeau updating the nation. But within a few days, the time between and after homeschool began to be filled with uncommon activities. After all, I had to entertain the kids. The first thing I did was learn some magic tricks. The disappearing coin, the disappearing handkerchief, the bending spoon, and the rubber pencil.
After two weeks things began to dramatically change at work. The onslaught of information made it a good idea seek precautions. Now my front-end staff were wearing gloves and masks. I was also doing the same but I upgraded to the N95 and I traded my bowtie and dress shirt for a set of black scrubs. Patients were evenly spaced apart so they did not see one another. There was no waiting room: patients were brought directly into a pre-disinfected room after washing their hands. We implemented one-way traffic: entering through one door and exiting through another. Palpating, soft-tissue release, and inserting acupuncture needles became increasingly different while using gloves.
Back at home I began taking novel approaches in teaching my son academics. He was learning addition with numbers 10 and under – so I started teaching him how to play blackjack (am I a bad parent?), and before long he knew how to add… and to always split eights and double down on 11. After school brought walks with my family which included Nitro our dog. By the beginning of April, I erected a badminton net in the backyard and my son and I played daily. For the first time in my life I baked cupcakes with the kids – and then an actual cake. I continued to deviate from the school curriculum (after all I was the teacher) so my kids and I did science experiments. We mixed vinegar and baking soda and filled a balloon with the product of the reaction (CO2). We made an egg turn to “bouncy rubber,” we bent water using a ballon, and we crushed pop cans by learning how to manipulate atmospheric pressure. Clearly, I was going out of my mind.
When I was in work mode at home I taught weekly webinars and wrote six articles for this publication and another commercial magazine. I learned how I could do a live narration of my pre-recorded clinical webinars so I could provide more educational value to my students. By this time safety restrictions became even stricter in my office. Everyone who entered the building, patients included, wore masks. From the information available, the only thing anyone was sure about was that they were not sure. I felt that taking these extra precautions alleviated some anxiety from the already angst acute patient.
Bedtime rituals became pretty predictable. I read my daughter the bedtime story 101 Dalmations – sixty-four straight nights. Ironically this led me to learning how to mix the occasional alcoholic beverage for my wife and I. For the first time I made an Amaretto Sour. I also routinely concocted a cranberry vodka martini with red and white cranberry juice (I had no idea it came in white!). And amazingly my coffee machine told me I made 184 cappuccinos in 64 days.
What did my business mind learn from this?
This was and will remain to be a difficult time. However, if we survived this – our business can survive anything. As a practice owner for 18 years, I always made it a point to set money aside into a business savings account. Mutual funds, RRSP, tax-free savings plans are all good too. Make sure to focus on saving because that proverbial rainy day will come.
Before the pandemic, the most vacation I ever took was 12 days in a row. Now we will not even think twice about taking 2-3 weeks vacation. Remember that time you took 64 days off?
Tough times don’t last but tough people do. Look for the silver linings in your practice. For instance, our palpation skills will become extremely well developed. The mechanoreceptors in our fingertips and hands will become heightened due to the months of wearing protective gloves.
The next time we take this much time off of work we’ll probably be retired. Before this: I never tried magic, or science experiments. I never went for walks on 64 consecutive days. In this work stoppage I played badminton daily, I was a blackjack dealer, a bartender, a baker, and a first-grade teacher. It is true what they say: life is stranger than fiction. Stay safe.
Anthony LOMBARDI, DC, is a private consultant to athletes in the NFL, CFL and NHL, and founder of the Hamilton Back Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic. He teaches his fundamental EXSTORE Assessment System and practice building workshops to various health professionals. For more information, visit www.exstore.ca.