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An Atlanta Researcher Looks For a COVID-19 Treatment | The Essentials

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– You end up getting pretty close with some of your participants in this study and not everybody makes it out of the hospital So I think those days are really hard, when you feel like it took a life that it really didn't need to take

– Hi, I'm Dometi Pongo, and welcome to 'The Essentials' As we remain alone together at home to flatten the curve of COVID-19, we wanted to tell the stories of the young people who can't The doctors, nurses, and service workers who have put their lives at risk to save more Today, we'll meet Laurel Bristow, an infectious disease researcher in Atlanta Her drive to help find a cure is only matched in her effort to share her journey

First, talk about what it is that you do on a day-to-day basis – We are overseeing a clinical trial of an experimental drug called remdesivir It's an antiviral, so it means it stops viral replication and we are hoping that it will be effective against people who have the COVID-19 infection – Do you work with a lot of millennials? A lot of folks your age? A lot of young people? – It's a lot of people my age, I have people in their mid-20s who work for me, because we're doing the footwork, you know? It's the younger generation that is doing the kind of heavy lifting or "grunt work" of research to get people enrolled, to get doses to people, to get bloods collected – Now, I imagine you're going to be working on this for the greater part of the next 18 months, how are you doing? – Right now, I'm working anywhere from 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, so I don't really have a lot of time to worry about anything else

Of course, I miss my friends and my family but, I know that I'm keeping them safe by not being around them So, it makes it easier to do that sacrifice – You kind of built another family, though with your online community, how did that even come about? Was that something you always planned to do? – I made a video just explaining why social distancing is important and flattening the curve and why this is different from the flu and some friends asked if they could share it, if I would make my account public so they could share it, and I said, "Yeah" I think I said, I'll make it public for, like, 24 hours and it just blew up and I do think it's important that people have access to updates about research and good information that doesn't make them panic – Yeah

– It's wild, I never in my life thought that I would become an Instagram influencer from a pandemic but, here we are Our biggest concern for transmission has and always will be person-to-person Is it impossible to get it any other way? No, but it's just much less likely As Kanye says, "You worry 'bout the wrong thing" ♪ You worry 'bout the wrong things ♪ – You know, I've been following you for about a week or two now, and I saw you say something that really struck me: You said, "I thought about what it felt like to get a hug

" – There are good days and there are bad days and in the car, I started, for whatever reason, got a very strong muscle memory feeling of what it's like to get a really good hug and I started crying You know, online, I have this really cheery disposition and people say that I'm so positive and so joyful but, I have a hard time with it, too, everyone's doing the best they can to emotionally deal with the strange new time that we're in – When you first got into this field, did you ever think you'd see a day where you wouldn't be able to create a close connection with the people you care for? – That day hasn't come, I get very attached to our participants and to their family members that we talk to I think a lot of times, the research group, we end up kind of being de facto family for some people because we have the most capability to talk to people when they're in the hospital The primary care teams are doing an incredible job but they need to focus on all of their patients and updating all of the families

And suddenly seeing so much death so quickly, for someone who, I didn't go to medical school, I'm not a nurse, I'm not used to this being a regular part of my job So that has been, it's been a big adjustment for me for sure – Along those lines, have you always made your mental health or protecting your mental health a priority? Or is it something that you didn't really think about consciously? – I don't think before this I ever really thought about protecting my mental health I have a sister who I love dearly who's a nurse practitioner and so she really understands a lot of what I feel and so, FaceTiming with her, FaceTiming with other friends who are in the medical profession, or FaceTiming with other friends to get a distraction – What drives you to wake up every morning and continue to do what you do with the same passion that you did when times were much simpler? – Because people need me! I mean, it's honestly easier for me to go to work these days because what we're doing really matters and I think there's a lot of people who we work with on clinical trials and vaccine trials who do not want to be anywhere near the hospital

They have children, they have families, they're in the older age group – Right – It's kind of the idea that if I don't do it, it might not get done, or it would be a bigger burden on the rest of my team because they would have to make up for that loss so it's pretty easy to motivate myself to go to work right now because I want to solve this, you know? I want to be able to see my family, too and I have the capability to be directly involved in solving it, so I'm going to keep going

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