British Columbia

This B.C. ER doctor beat COVID-19. Now he's returning to the front lines

Dr. Joseph Finkler is an emergency room physician at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver and says the experience left him changed.

Dr. Joseph Finkler returning to St. Paul's Hospital with 'heightened sensitivity' to contagious illnesses

Dr. Joseph Finkler is returning to the emergency department at St. Paul's Hospital after recovering from COVID-19. He says the experience made him aware of his own vulnerability and the stigma a diagnosis can carry with it. (Submitted by Dr. Joseph Finkler)

Dr. Joseph Finkler is returning to work this week with a new perspective after recovering from COVID-19. 

Finkler, a physician at the emergency department of St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, was diagnosed at the end of March after experiencing fatigue and fever. 

After his diagnosis, he said he realized he had never really expected to get infected despite his occupation — and never expected the guilt he would feel about exposing his family to the virus, nor the stigma it bears.

"I guess I had to be the poster boy," Finkler said in an interview on CBC's The Early Edition on Wednesday.

Now he has beaten COVID-19, Finkler said he has a "heightened sensitivity to contagious illness," meaning he is far more aware of how vulnerable he is.

WATCH | Finkler talks about coming to terms with his COVID-19 diagnosis:

Vancouver emergency room doctor Joseph Finkler talks about not wanting to believe he had COVID-19 and when it finally sunk in. 1:21

He says he learned the hard way about the impact a diagnosis has on loved ones.

"Sometimes I felt guilty ... maybe I brought this upon myself and therefore in some way stigmatized my family," he said, adding that his partner and children also had to be quarantined.

Finkler said the environment in the hospital has also changed, likely forever.

The pandemic has altered protocols around where patients are physically placed, how patients are resuscitated and how personal protective equipment is used, he said.

"It reminds me of how it changed after 9/11 and I don't think we will ever go back," Finkler said.

While Finkler is relieved to be on the other side of the illness, he still can't help but worry about wading back into an unprecedented health crisis.

"There is an anxiety and anticipation about what might come, and no one knows."

To hear the complete interview with Dr. Finkler on The Early Edition tap here.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

With files from The Early Edition

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