Squash Players Serve: Dr. Toby Lynch

The ongoing pandemic has transformed the way healthcare workers operate and treat patients in Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Units around the world. Dr. Toby Lynch, an emergency medicine critical physician, has been working a demanding schedule directly with Covid-19 patients in Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Units in the Washington University of St. Louis medical system in Missouri.

Like all hospitals, Dr. Lynch’s team have dealt with the challenges of exhaustive protective measures for both themselves and their patients in the ER and ICU.

“It’s a whole new world,” Lynch said. “For every patient now there’s a new level of protection that we use whether it be facemasks and eye protection just to see any type patient in the ER. In the ICU it’s N95 masks or respirators and faceshields or gowns. Before you could see patients face to face but now there’s always needs to be an extra level of protection for you and your patient.”

In addition to the unprecedented hazards, medical professionals are also grappling with relationship management due to widespread visitation restrictions implemented.

“From the ICU side of things, not having visitors is one of the hardest things for families and for the nursing staff and physicians,” Lynch said. “We’re used to having very close interactions with loved ones and having them see and understand what’s going on so that they can come to decisions about what comes next for their loved ones.  We’re not able to do that now because of the no visitors policy and the safety measure that are required due to Covid-19.”

Like many areas of the country, Lynch praised support for medical professionals from the St. Louis community.

“There’s been a huge outpouring of support from the St. Louis community throughout this whole process,” Lynch said. “Whether it’s just signs in people’s yards or food donations, or a lot of our physicians have partnered with members of the community to produce new PPE concepts and are making sure they’re getting distributed to health care workers.”

Lynch moved to St. Louis in 2016 when he began as a critical care fellow, and graduated and joined the staff in 2018.

“Our team has been handling things very well,” Lynch said. “There’s been a lot of education and growth and adaptability from all members of the teams, which has been great to see and led to really good cohesiveness and results for what was a new disease process that developed very quickly with evolving information and treatments over the past few months.”

Squash has also been an important part of Lynch’s life. A native of Pittsburgh, Lynch picked up the game at Shady Side Academy and went on to play in college at Hobart. He joined the Racquet Club of St. Louis upon relocating and has been a regular member of the community ever since. Lynch lauded club pro Mike Puertas for his ability to bring newcomers into the game as well as promoting an active professional singles and doubles schedule.

“My favorite part about the Racquet Club community is the camaraderie,” Lynch said. “When I joined the club I knew one person. Over the span of a few months, I knew a couple dozen people. Everyone was extremely welcoming and willing to get on court with me regardless of how good or bad I was. It’s been a great environment to be a part of. It’s really nice to see guys at the Racquet Club who have never played step on court and Mike can teach them and have them playing the game in record time. His ability to interact with the members is phenomenal. The amount of high-level squash he brings to the city through both singles and doubles is unbelievable. Each year our professional events seem to get more popular and get everyone that much more excited to play themselves.”

Like most squash players, Lynch looks forward to returning to the court when it is safe to do so and advises the community to be ready for adjustments to their past rhythms.

“Be smart, be practical and realize that there is going to be a new normal for a while and we’re not sure what it is yet,” Lynch said. “Ultimately there will be a way to get back to the court and back to a more normal lifestyle in the coming months. It just takes time. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but it’s definitely not going to be the same as it was.”