A doctor shares about the other side of chaos.
Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Someone on the campus was asked how brave they are to step out and go to the hospital daily. My colleague replied sheepishly, “It’s just working, corona or not, had to come, just the tension in the corridors is more palpable”. Before; we waved at each other enthusiastically even while hustling around wards with arms full of reports. Now we walk slower looking up at the person coming from the other side with a concoction of fear, pity, and mutual respect for just being part of the front line. Even vivid conversations at the canteen have shortened and whatever’s left is mostly about “you know who”.
After quite a long time the people who have often held the stage are not the one in limelight, it’s the people who have been working in the background running the daily life functioning unhindered and yet were camouflaged up until now. With the peak rising and the overwhelming lack of resources, the people at the forefront are hustling for the upcoming twist to this pandemic plot.
Things are going to get scarier, there's no point sugar-coating this. Everyone is doing their parts as much as they can, at least I choose to believe so. But the hour demands more. A doctor’s lifestyle (or any medical staff) on any regular day is a circus already. Dinners at 3 AM, calls at home at best thrice a week, if lucky a bath once every two days. In times like these everything is amplified. I will not romanticize the experience. The fact that the medical staff is being called the soldiers is not honorary anymore. People are scared to breathe in the air outside, think about the residents who are working in the ward named ‘COVID19 Isolation’ every day. Synonymous with running towards a pointed gun and the tragedy is, not with enough protection let alone armor. My brother calls to say how proud he is that I’m part of the fraternity, but honestly his pride is always laced with dread and hope at the same time.
This is not the first time mankind has faced a pandemic. The 1918 Spanish flu is the godfather of all scoring almost 50 million-plus lives. We keep forgetting the beginning of 2009’s swine flu but that’s only because we somehow managed to develop the vaccine and deploy it worldwide on time. It has been tackled before although with more casualties in numbers. It will be done again; the challenge will be to do it faster with better resources, collaborative efforts, and lesser casualties.
Time is key right now. Be it the amount of time you will have to stay put or the number of hours mankind will keep on fighting this virus. Every person you see in the line to get groceries seems like a suspect to you, a slight cough or sneeze makes you jump 5 steps away. Picture a nurse or a doctor, examining a person, taking his blood, putting hands in his mouth for the swab sample, yes that is our job, yes we do that on a daily basis, but the level of risk we are exposing ourselves to knowingly is what makes me respect every fellow person in the hospital who is doing their regular jobs in a not so ‘regular’ situation.
OPDs that used to brim with patients are locked now, casualty that buzzed till 4 am has empty beds throughout the hall, but the doctors still don’t feel the relieve at the lack of trauma or OPD load, every other ailment has taken a backseat while COVID19 is being Thanos for the earth. Yesterday one of my colleagues met some elderly men who were admitted to his ward a few weeks ago. Now discharged and nowhere to go, they have camped outside the locked doors of OPD eating whatever the NGOs are distributing. Even though everyone seems to believe the power is in the hands of medical staff, it is not entirely true. The only strategy I feel that would work is a cumulative effort and tons of patience from every stratum of society.
The eeriness of the corridor has started bugging me; a shorter commute to work doesn’t feel so good anymore, I am a spectator as well as a part of this pandemic with the hope of better times ahead just like everyone else. The question is will we be equipped enough in this fight in time? Are we ready for the peak that’s almost at the door? And most importantly, do we have enough patience to sit through this chaos whose end is yet to show itself?
To be continued...
The above piece is a guest blog submission by Sumana Mukhopadhyay
Sumana Mukhopadhyay is a doctor with a restless enthusiasm for everything out in the world.