Soldiers in scrubs:Fighting a war on two fronts
In Jan 2020, very few of us had heard about SARS CoV 19.
Then, the entire world saw the saga unfold.
We saw the initial images from Wuhan, Italy, New York with patients lining up outside hospitals with no place to go. We heard heart wrenching stories of death, distress and despair. News channels have relayed gory numbers and statistics. Of course, all of these were reiterated on every dimension of social media and started to play onto people’s minds.
Today, the whole world, including the so called “developed” nations with the best healthcare facilities and technology at their disposal are reeling from its effect. India is currently in the thick of it all as we are watching the cases peak.
This is not just a pandemic as far as an infection goes, this is also a mental health crisis. The advent of the new coronavirus has made people all over the world more suspicious of each other. Forwarded messages on social media can add to this, creating irrational fear among people. This covid paranoia has taken various forms and has been unleashed on different people in different ways. But one of the prime targets have been our frontliners: healthcare workers.
Doctors have been physically assaulted for not being able to save a patient. Healthcare workers have been stoned when they tried to collect samples for testing. Nurses have been booed and jeered at when seen in uniform. Resident doctors have been evicted from their rental homes.
Although the healthcare systems are strained and the treatment recommendations are changing daily, us doctors spend hours trying to research, study and analyse ways and means to fight this new, elusive enemy that is endangering all of us.
Nurses have been with their patients every step of the way. Feeding them, caring for them, helping them with their daily needs without caring much for their own. Technicians have gone into the neighbourhoods to screen all those who may be affected. All this in far from ideal conditions, sometimes with minimal PPE.
This is a disease that has made people abandon even their close and loved ones. But the healthcare workers have always continued to support, heal and in some cases even laid to rest those affected.
Imagine the plight of these “covid warriors”, when they are ostracised by their own neighbours when they come home after a rough shift or are shunned at a supermarket when they go to buy their groceries for being a “covid carrier”.
Everyone is scared and I understand. Even though I am a doctor, I feel afraid too.
Day after day, we have been watching the numbers go up, critical patients lining up everywhere. We don’t have the comfort of coming home to a hot meal and our loved ones because we have to isolate ourselves from them for their own safety. Mental health problems ranging from burnout to full blown anxiety and depression are on the rise among our own. After a hard day’s night, all we need, is a little compassion, a little empathy and dignity. And trust, that with our knowledge and understanding of our disease, we will take enough care not to spread the virus.
On most days, just a smile will do.
One of the reasons I started the Safety Net initiative is because it is easy to forget that doctors are human too. Violence against doctors has been on the rise in the last few years. Misunderstandings and suspicions about healthcare workers are rife. I felt that this communication gap between medical and non-medical people needed to be bridged so that they could see our side of the story too.
Now, Covid-19 has brought us to the front lines.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
We aren’t just fighting the virus. We are fighting FOR our patients, for the community, for the country.
Help us help you.
Dr Vijayshree Patil
Anaesthesiologist and Intensive Care Specialist.
Founder, The Safety Net