In case you’ve been living under a rock, the World Health Organisation declared the global COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. In our new recent reality, coronavirus stories abound — from panic buying of toilet paper to entire countries going on lockdown. But the most heartbreaking stories come from the men and women on the frontline of this fight: doctors, nurses, medics, medical volunteers and other health professionals risking their own safety and that of their families to put others’ lives and safety first. The men and women who, in the worst affected places, are put in the horrible position of having to decide essentially who gets to live and who dies. Let’s take a moment to remember that this has been the daily reality of doctors in war-torn places like Syria for years, or simply a fact of life for doctors practicing in extremely poor countries with very limited resources.
Since news of the virus broke, I’ve been constantly discussing the science, the news, virology, epidemiology, people’s reaction (both overreaction and brash dismissals) with several doctor friends. In the last few days, when news of the dire situation in Italy started trickling out, I could feel the heartbreak of my friends as they put themselves in their peers’ shoes.
“For us doctors, it’s so painful to make those decisions,” said one of my best friends. Even through text message, I could hear her heart breaking and felt the visceral pain she felt from people who seem to dismiss the desperate pleas of medical professionals dealing with COVID-19 to please do their part through social distancing, better hygiene, not panicking, and looking out for each other. It’s not about panic, it’s about doing our little bit to help the healthcare system cope.
To all the selfless men and women putting their own health on the line to help others, thank you. We recognise your sacrifice, your selflessness, your love for your patients. We’re rooting for you, thinking of you when you collapse from exhaustion at the end of a 24-hour day. But wait, you don’t even know how many hours have passed because days bleed into each other. We’re rooting for you to have the mental, emotional and psychological strength you need as you power through without so much as a glass of water all day. We’re thanking you and thinking of you when your heart aches from missing your spouse and your kids. We’re cheering you on as you silently celebrate small victories when a patient’s condition improves. We’re crying with you when you have to make the difficult choice of giving one person the chance to live over another. We have our hands on your shoulder as you sit in a corner, head in hands, to regroup and take a deep breath before seeing your next patient and doing it all over again. We’re holding your hand in support and gratitude as we fight this virus as one human race. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.