I started reading The Plague as a joke: I was live-tweeting a pandemic: what would this quaint little book written half a century ago have for me? With each page though, there are insights that speak of the helplessness, the rage, the frustration, the weariness that sets in your bones every time you wake up in the reality of COVID-19. I read books as an escape but the town of Oran was doing in 1947 what the world was doing in 2020: there’s a part where the town Prefect hesitates to call the disease a ‘plague’ because it would hurt local business. Sound familiar?
There’s no escaping the despair that’s starting to engulf us all, like a wave threatening to steal the very breath from our lungs. Every morning I wake up to messages in my research groups, my doctors’ groups, my working moms group:⠀
“I’ve tested positive, I can’t isolate from my children, please help.”⠀
“My mom is positive, I can’t find a hospital bed, please help.” ⠀
“Anyone working in Saudi? My brother’s tested positive and the hospital won’t let us speak to him, please help.”⠀
Every day it gets a little harder to keep compassion in sight when I see people out without masks, without social distancing, without bothering to fact check what they forward on social media, and without extending common courtesy to the people bagging their groceries or directing their traffic, let alone writing their prescriptions. ⠀
Every day it gets a little harder to keep from raging at a government that refuses to communicate the risk to their countrymen, that outright lies in the face of facts and refuses to implement adequate mitigation measures.⠀
There’s one thing doctors hate and it is uncertainty. I loathe this inability to extrapolate from data because the data is so messed up. It means having to give answers that I resent hearing myself, let alone from the point of view of someone who is battling COVID-19.⠀
When will this be over?
I don’t know.⠀
How bad will it get?
What are my treatment options?
There aren’t any proven.⠀
How can I keep my loved ones safe?
You can’t, there’s no vaccine.⠀
What kind of doctor are you?
A very, very scared one.
It's getting harder and harder to find reasons to smile these days.⠀⠀
FACT: doctors have absolutely nothing to gain by diagnosing COVID-19 patients. As the death toll for healthcare workers rises, they have absolutely everything to lose.⠀⠀⠀⠀
With a fragile healthcare system, at the best of times, COVID-19 is pushing Pakistan to the brink of a system-wide collapse. When people refuse to understand the risks involved or to hold themselves accountable-- who is to blame? Why does the rage of the masses only express itself by destroying hospital property? ⠀⠀⠀⠀
FACT: Hospital beds in Pakistan – 132,227 (Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 2018)
FACT: Ventilators in Pakistan – 3,800 (Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, 2020)⠀⠀
Should healthcare workers be held responsible for a government that casually chose to equate a novel disease with unknown pathophysiology to the flu? Should healthcare workers be held responsible for policymakers who refused to implement timely preventive measures? To hold a few people in quarantine with dignity instead of cramming them in crowded camps with no facilities? When the media decided to muddy an already precarious situation by muzzling doctors and listening to politicians and industry tycoons, why are healthcare workers blamed?⠀⠀
FACT: COVID-19 is NOT the flu. It presents with signs and symptoms like the flu but that’s where the similarity ends.⠀⠀⠀⠀
FACT: Every age group is effected based on their underlying illnesses (comorbidity). What starts as a pneumonia can end in renal failure, heart failure or brain death (stroke) because of massive clotting and inflammation. An auto-immune ‘cytokine storm’ has been implicated but make no mistake—your age does not keep you ‘safe’, nor your ‘healthy’ lifestyle. If you want to gamble with COVID-19, go ahead, it’ll play Russian roulette on your immune system.⠀⠀⠀⠀
Remember, healthcare workers did not tell you:
- To gather in mosques and wedding congregations⠀⠀
- To keep going out on unnecessary trips⠀
Remember, healthcare workers did tell you:
- COVID-19 has no proven treatment⠀⠀
- COVID-19 has no proven vaccine