Seeing the Purpose Behind the Virus featuring Drs. Greg and Ali Tsai
March 4, 2021
by Christian Medical & Dental Associations®
CMDA members Drs. Greg and Ali Tsai live and practice medicine in Manhattan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis when the pandemic initially broke out in the United States. Greg is an ENT physician, while Ali is an OB/Gyn who works part-time with a homeless shelter.
In late February 2020, Greg and his co-workers at Mt. Sinai Hospital started hearing about the fast-spreading Coronavirus. They knew it was going to impact them, but they had no idea the extent their everyday lives and practices would be impacted by the virus.
“In our specialty, we see a lot of people with ear, nose and throat problems, and we knew this was a respiratory problem,” Greg said. “In our line of work, it was a high risk to contract the virus.”
On March 15, they made the decision to close down the office. “On March 16, I was calling patients to let them know their appointments were cancelled,” Greg said. “When I came back the next day, around noon my office manager said we were closing and doing everything virtually. When I headed home, I was feeling a little warm. That night, my temperature rose to 102, and I realized I had a fever. That’s when I got a little nervous.”
“At that point, it was very concerning,” said Ali. “He was put in isolation and he stayed in a bedroom of his own, and my son and I tried to minimize contact with him.”
At that time, only hospitals were equipped to perform any testing for the virus. So when Greg’s fever didn’t go away, and he developed body aches and fatigue, he went to the emergency room to be tested. “Everyone’s experience is different, mine was characterized by high fevers for about two weeks and body aches. No matter what position I was in in bed, it was very uncomfortable,” he said.
After about a week, Greg’s symptoms decreased, and he started to feel a little better. But the very next day, the fever came back with a vengeance.
“When the fever went away after a week, I thought I was finished with it,” he remembered. “So when the second round came, I was starting to get anxious. Although I was never short of breath, I knew that it didn’t feel comfortable when I took a deep breath. Even walking around the bedroom, my chest felt tight and I was worried my lungs were going to go. During that second week, I started to feel very desperate. Because of that desperation, my prayers become more fervent.”
Despite Greg’s growing concern, Ali felt an overwhelming sense of peace.
“I have to say, I can’t explain it, but I had this peace that he would be fine,” Ali said. “We grew a lot together spiritually in that we prayed with a fervency we hadn’t before. On day eight, when he started getting worried, I started reaching out to friends. We had this cadre of people through the CMDA network who we met through ministry circles, and we’re so grateful for this community of believers who guided us. People prayed in ways that we hadn’t prayed before, and they taught us how to pray differently.”
After nearly three weeks of quarantine, Greg was feeling better and excited to return to “normal” life, but healthcare was still anything but normal. Patients in the hospital needed tracheostomies in order to be taken off the ventilator, but it was a risky procedure that could infect the physician performing the procedure.
But for Greg, it was far less risky, because he had developed antibodies to the virus. “I teamed up with a couple of residents who had also tested positive for antibodies, and we ended up doing all the tracheostomies on COVID patients throughout the hospital.”
After nearly a month of treating patients on the COVID wards, the number of cases decreased, and New York was finally seeing relief from the virus.
Now, nearly a year since the original outbreak, Greg and Ali have forgotten some of the details of his illness, but they haven’t forgotten how God led them through the crisis.
“Going into Greg’s illness, I had already come from a pretty challenging place with my father having major heart surgery,” remembered Ali. “God was showing me how faithful He is, and I think that’s why I had this peace that Greg would be ok. It reinforced that God is behind everything that is good. There is a spiritual battle going on. How do we fight this spiritually, not just physically and not just with medication? I am so grateful that God has allowed us to have medical training, but it was really the faith part that made a difference. Only our faith in the Lord was allowing us to see any purpose behind this virus.”
Greg and Ali are only two of the countless CMDA members who have been impacted by the Coronavirus. You can hear more from Greg, Ali and many others about their experiences working on the frontlines of the COVID crisis at CMDA’s Virtual National Convention on April 29 – May 1, 2021. For more information and to register, visit www.cmda.org/nationalconvention.