We are mortal but have not truly accepted this.
For a while I have noted this surprisingly in my young patients, a constant fear of dying. I would see several patients a day with pains from their little toe to a two-day-old sore throat. All asking the same question, “Is it, life-threatening Doctor?” 99% of the time, no it wasn’t. I thought perhaps these patients were not representative of the fear of what is inevitable for us all. That is, we will return to dust one day.
I was wrong. This fear is truly not in the minority, I have witnessed this during these trialling times. I have watched WhatsApp groups with an average age of early 30s daily share fear driving articles about how Covid-19 will get you and you must under no circumstances go outside. They have cheered each other on as to how they will presumably cheat death from this Covid-19. Few have asked questions like, what are the long term plans? Will we self isolate for a week, a month, three months? No these questions aren’t important. What’s important as I hear when I ask, what is being put into place post-Covid-19 or shouldn’t testing be a priority? The reply, “We need to survive first”. Most of us are not concerned with the implications, consequences of the actions we take now so long as “I am alive”
I too have an instinct of survival it’s a basic human need. I do not however think we are owed a right to live. We do not get to decide under normal circumstances when our time is up. Is it fair that lives will be claimed by Covid-19? no. Is it devasting the lives lost? without doubt. In the same breath though was it fair that my 35-year-old patient with two small children lost her life to cervical cancer? Or the 18-year-old who died of a heart condition during his football match. Life was never truly designed to be fair.
So perhaps the best we can do is accept our mortality and have gratitude for each day we are gifted.
Love is the answer
Now more than ever love and compassion are needed. When you reach for the third packet of chicken thighs knowing that there is only one more on the shelf pause for thought. Do I need all that chicken? We have become so accustomed to a world of self. My needs first and fulfilled to excess. Stories of people hoarding toilet roll, cereal, milk, name it, they have been grabbed and stored away. If we loved our neighbour as ourselves would we not simply buy only what we needed for the week? Love is part of the solution to this fight. I have sat and offered my thoughts of kindness to those ill or lost loved ones. Because right now there are no answers, social distancing will not prevent deaths nor has it calmed the hysteria. I now see how powerful love could be. During this time while we are stuck inside, sending a thoughtful message to friends and family or even sharing them online can do wonders we underestimate.
It does not pay to stay focused on the fear and the question of will I make it. But to say I have love to give and I will send my prayers or positive thoughts to those suffering. For some at this moment, sadly there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Even when I debate the actions of the government and my belief that the worst is yet to come, I pause and think I understand your fear and I choose to show you love instead. It matters not who is right but that we come together and support one another.
Herd Mentality still exists
One person in the group said it “we are all going to die if we go outside” and just like that even tampons were out of stock. The reaction of the mass armageddon has come. Borders are shut, shops closed, rightly but ineffective management with regards to testing and provision of PPE kits continues at least here in Uk. I am not here to condemn nor pretend to have considered all the factors that may have led to this ineffective response to Covid-19. However more open discussion and contemplation of varied actions are needed.
We live in times of individualism and non-conforming or boundaries limited. Yet I have watched individuals with differing opinions to the herd be shut down and almost told they are endangering lives. Leonardo da Vinci was told he was crazy when he dreamt of a machine that could fly.
The herd has spoken, they have asked for schools to be shut the entire summer to the extent that in the Uk GCSEs and A-levels have been cancelled. The proposed method of university entry to be based on predicted grades. Who will this likely affect? The ethnic minority of course, whom are often given worse predictions to their white counterparts. Having only the actual exams at times to show their capabilities. So for some who dreamed of becoming doctors, the very ones who are among those at the front line saving lives will now possibly never become one due to this herd mentality. But the child is alive you say! where was it written that re-opening schools cautiously would have meant otherwise?
Stay indoors the herd chant “stay indoors!” Then these very same people are at the park with their children. Which is it? Stay indoors but go to the park? Would it not have been easier to say I know we need to limit movement but for our sanity we may need advice on how to go to the park for instance. The herd mentality of stay indoors has now led to the homeless being fined in places like France. Is this what we have come to? This is the problem with herd mentality it does not allow for in-depth discussion or lateral thinking its only interest is in maintaining the status quo even if it isn’t all too practical.
It was the mantra of the early 2000s. I said it but never truly grasped it nor felt the need. In recent years I have. In my quest to find and become my most authentic self, I have come to also realize this ultimately means seizing each day, each moment as if it were your last. Now more than ever is the time to do that. Sadly we cannot travel but we can start on other dreams. Write that novel, learn a language or start baking! Whatever the dream is, adapt or adjust it and start living it today.
Your day of recognition will come
For so long we in the medical profession have been undervalued. We are overworked and constantly criticized. Daily we are sued by patients who feel we are gods and therefore should not be allowed to get it wrong, ever. It has been spun that we are overpaid and therefore should work more and so made cuts to ensure this. Today it has become clear what we doctors have known for so long. Cuts to the system, overworked healthcare staff, in the long run, will benefit no one.
Doctors are dying in the dozens but we still go to work. Yes, we have bills to pay but for most of us, it is because we know what we signed up for. We know we have a duty of care, are we terrified? of course but we keep fighting and I applaud my colleagues at the very front line. For every one of my colleagues’ doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals it has taken a long time and it is unfortunate to come in such a way but finally, the world understands that our job has never been a simple one.
Covid-19 does not need to destroy us, physically, mentally nor spiritually. We can somehow find strength and through the darkness see the ray of light that shows us now more than ever we are all connected. My actions can affect a person a thousand miles away therefore so can my thoughts.
So let us all take a moment probably as we wash our hands, that may each positive thought we put into the world reach someone in despair be it from Covid-19 or any other distress. Showing them too that they matter and have reason to keep fighting.