Confronting The Reality Of COVID-19
Reality Sinks In
They say that time will tell. It’s true, that not only are stories revealed with time, but various perspectives of the same emerge. For instance, we initially soaked up the novelty of working in modular teams over extended hours in make-shift tents, as if on an overseas medical mission together. As the weeks wore on, exhaustion and monotony devoured us. Tempers flared over small things like taking team photos or what time we ate dinner. It was the oddest thing.
At home, I alternated between being insanely happy to see my kids, and being drained by their drama. On one of my days off, I asked my kids to behave because I needed to rest. Within minutes, there was a commotion. M5 had gotten into a skirmish with her brothers, resulting in her ploughing her head against the door. Honestly. It was all I could do not to scream. If you conjure up the image of Edvard Munch’s agonised masterpiece, that would be an accurate reflection of me at that precise moment.
Immediately, I applied compression and ice to her enormous bruise. The reality of going to the emergency room is that there’s always a chance of catching COVID-19 or some other bug. And that is the risk one must balance against leaving a head injury unattended. That night we stayed home. However, I realised how frustrating the dilemma must be for other parents. When I was calmer, I posted an educational video for other parents of kids with head injuries: https://youtu.be/-o8pPxP4XXY.
Life Goes On
Meanwhile, COVID-19 continued to spread locally, in neighboring countries, like South Korea, and beyond, like Italy. Putting the data together, we discovered the reality of how contagious it was. COVID-19 has a basic reproduction number of 2.2. Essentially, it means that each case can generate 2.2 more cases in a susceptible population.
Since the virus was continuing to ravage the rest of the world, there was nothing for it but to just keep calm and carry on. We accepted that DORSCON Orange Is The New Black was not going to go away just yet. So we took those team photos and had fun doing so. A team mate fell ill and recovered. We celebrated a birthday. We bade good-bye to colleagues rotating to other departments.
Fortunately, unexpected super-heroes came to the rescue, providing cheer with delicious treats. Months ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying Lunch At Shiokoji Tonkatsu Keisuke. Hence it was with great excitement that I gratefully accepted their offer to send dinner to my team. Other lovely sponsors included http://mrspho.com, and my Primary School classmates who sent a care package of exotic nuts from Amazing Graze. Maybe the reality is that no matter how tough the situation appears to be, as long as we work together as a team, we can get by. And the obvious other reality is that good food can get you through any crisis.
Let’s Go Out And Play
So what’s the best way to handle the situation? What can we, as healthcare workers, and the general public do to make things better? When the harsh reality of a virus spreading faster than we can concoct a cure or vaccine sink in, we must acknowledge hard facts. Maybe one of the ways of winning is to continue with life as it goes on. Although we can help to reduce infection with good hygiene and self-care, we also have to try to live as we used to. That means sensibly going about our activities of daily living. Like going out for lunch in small groups. Heading out for a play. Shopping in a mall, preferably without a face mask if you’re not unwell. Otherwise the virus doesn’t just become a health burden but an economic and social crisis as well.
We Need To Talk
Another important thing, I feel, is to keep communicating honestly. This doesn’t just apply to communication between doctors and patients, particularly with respect to symptoms like fever and travel history. When stakeholders like businessmen, journalists, healthcare workers and scientists have conversations, myths are dispelled and solutions are created. Recently, I was part of a panel discussion at 1880. Shortly after, I spoke on air with Neil Humphreys & Glenn van Zutphen from Money FM 89.3. https://youtu.be/tPrSijZXrK8
In both these sessions, I truly felt that intentional conversations can propel things forward. Even when reality sinks in, hope floats.