The confusion really isn’t about wondering if the lockdown is actually a relaxation or not, what all will I be able to do now onwards, or if our coveted orange zone status will change to red….
I am sure these will be sorted out by newspapers, online news sites and the whatsapp groups over the day.
I am confused about myself….
Previously, like everyone else, I was so busy simultaneously trying to create my life, live it, and run away from it; that I never thought about any of this. All parts of me, the doctor, the mother, the home maker, the struggling writer, the chief organizing officer of many things around me, seemed to come together as and when needed, and I was, well, getting along….
And then, as it did for everyone, the COVID pandemic came up from behind, and threw life into a spiral; the vortex of which still seems to be far away. As if the gamut of emotions this brought wasn’t enough, I find confusion has added itself to the list...
As I prepared for work as usual, I heard that many people had started calling me a warrior. I thought it must be the verbal equivalent of a typo for doctor; but it continued. The hospitals did seem to be becoming like war zones, with some people in full protective gear, only their eyes visible; and others angrily demanding them. Even though I had seen enough blood and gore to make many people sick in my medical training, I didn’t know what a battle or a battle field could look like. So I kept working… Or rather, as everyone said, I soldiered on. This new word was appropriate for the imminent war that I was being sent to; one that I hadn’t signed up for and one where I would turn out to be unprepared for. I admit, the terrain seemed familiar; it was about treating and caring for patients, which is surely my job, so I grappled with the situation. When people stepped into their balconies to applaud me, I figured they have understood my situation well; even though, later on, some of them wouldn’t let me come back home, and others would hurl abuses at me. I understood that these people were different from those who had sincerely applauded me before uploading their pictures, and I respected the efforts of those who had been sincere.
Then, one day, suddenly the crash course in soldier training started. That was when the word became clear. Running for life, been beat up while collecting samples, broken bones were new experinces, especially for the physically unfit me; but now the word frontline being used in media made sense.
Why didn’t I bail out you, ask? Ah, that’s it. That’s the one thing no one ever teaches you in becoming and being a doctor; how to give up. All those books we devour, they have lists and protocols of what all to do, what part of our armamentarium to use and when, in what sequence…how to keep investigating, evaluating treatments, almost never on how to throw in the towel (that, my friends , is a separate post!!).
COVID was a disease none of us had, or could have studied about so I prepared to work using my best possible judgement. Since there were no textbooks on this topic to read, I and my collegues set to work on the basis of what little evidence we had.
We began to hear that many doctors and health care workers were falling sick after getting infected with COVID. Worried, we began to search literature for, experiences of doctors across the globe, so that we could remain well and available to serve the serve the growing number of patients. The sobering realizations that we simply weren’t equipped enough to protect ourselves, made us fear for ourselves; and our families even more so. Once again we innovated according to our less than ideal circumstances. We stayed away from our families, while living in the same house. We left home, leaving our anxious children behind in the company of blaring news channels and websites, and returned home only to deny them the luxury of our comforting hugs. While no one had ever promised me a fantastic work life balance, this was entirely a new paradigm. COVID continued its journey, and all of us reconciled to this as a way of life.
Then one day, there were new names for me. Someone in my apartments called me a spreader. Studiously ignoring pictures of gourmet dishes cooked by neighbors while trying to manage my own home balancing it with going to work was keeping me busy, and I didn’t really have time to think about it. Untill, the newspaper reported that some prominent people had called me a carrier. I still couldn’t quite figure it out, until a friend was stopped from going back to her home in an adjoining state having finished her days work at a COVID diagnosis lab. How could someone possibly know who is a carrier and who isn’t? This would make things so easy. If people could tell, why were we even looking for tests and kits? Maybe they should collaborate with those who were denying testing to junior doctors on COVID duty, because they were apparently fine, and couldn’t have COVID? With all these people forming a committee and issuing guidelines about who may have the disease or not, we could be in a better position today?
Anyways, we rescheduled our patients to cover for those who were not allowed to reach work; having been summarily told that they could take their bag and baggage with them if they wanted to go work. Then suddenly, one day, many sleepy colleagues of mine, on a coveted holiday or post duty off were called to assemble and we were saluted. Some also rushed out seeing something being showered from the sky. Maybe more PPE kits, or even food packets for doctors doctors quarantined in unhygienic condition?
But it was our dear armed forces following orders and bringing the country together as usual. On a day that they had lost 5 of their bravehearts to a terror attack in Handwara, they had come together to shower us with rose petals. I felt their pain almost as much as I felt the pain of the migrant who was walking home hungry in the heat and had petals falling on his head.
The confusion now turns to numbness because there is only so much that we can afford to feel. As I prepare for another day in some variant of a lock down, I realize I need to do the only thing that will help.
When everything seems wrong, we can start by doing the next right thing. Take it little by little; focus on the small. So I prepare to greet the children when they wake up in this world filled with anxiety and uncertainty; loose myself in a coffee and some music for a while; before I struggle to find myself amidst these conundrums again
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