As I’m chilling in a lovely sunny Tuesday morning—by the UK standards— I decided to finally reflect on what has been going on for the last 3 weeks to a month, because I usually never talk about work. I rarely even say that I’m a doctor.
After years of practicing and training– seven years studying, three years working in E.R, and one year in plastic surgery; I can’t feel stress easily at work. It’s like any practice, you get used to it. If we count the hours I spent seeing blood, broken bones, smashed tissues, it would surpass the hours I have ever spend watching movies in my lifetime. And I love movies! But in the time of Corona, stress gets another kind of character and to a degree that you never encountered before.
At the beginning of this situation, I was just unsure what to think about it all. I felt weird like I couldn’t believe that this is happening. I mean, we are far too advanced for a virus to cause a global lockdown right? But this is happening, and like it or not, I’m working in a hospital. So in some way or another, I will be exposed. But funnily enough, I wasn’t worried at all about myself. All that I can think about is my family, especially because I’m miles away from them. I don’t want to sound like a martyr here, because I’m not, and like everyone, I want to come out of this alive, but I realized that I’m not my number one priority.
They tell us about the numbers in the hospital daily. I check the analysis and news coverage on the subject and try not to panic. I haven’t yet worked in departments that look after Covid-19 patients directly, but unfortunately, many of my patients have tested positive. I might work in one over the next weeks since the schedule changes daily, and we have to cover for the doctors who have the symptoms, and the doctors whom any member of their family has them because they need to lock themselves as well if that happened. Surgical cases began to decrease in the last couple of weeks, however, this week was the craziest and most chaotic so far as I took twelve-hour shifts (day and night), nine days a week. Yes. day 10 was the break.
Hospital wise, we had to adapt to many situations. For example, the hospital is separated into green areas, which means no Covid-19 symptoms patients; and yellow areas that have Covid-19 symptoms patients, or confirmed cases. So basically, because I have to work in both areas on the same day, I have to shower and change my scrubs when moving from yellow to a green area. So yes, bye-bye to straightening my hair for now. I also have to put on the P.P.E. more than usual. There is a fine art of putting and taking off the P.P.E., and it’s really difficult to operate in the full gear—I could swear that those masks reduce the oxygen reaching your brain, but hey, they do the job— my sister saw a doctor on IG doing it, and she called me to know if I’m protecting myself in the same way. I do it twice a day, if I’m operating, and spend the rest of the day with a disposable mask, being conscious about not touching my face.
When it comes to our breaks, there are no more group lunches, as we have to practice social distancing, so even if you are going to have lunch with a friend, you will have to be two meters apart.
However, when I look at the bright side of things, I think this whole situation brought out the best of human beings. There are so many acts of kindness that just bring tears to your eyes. We all saw the applause for the health-care workers around the world, and yesterday, the statue of Christ the Savior in Brazil was illuminated to resemble a doctor. On a more personal note, I was doing a night shift the other day, and someone decided to get tons of Starbucks canned coffee for us, and just leave them at the clinic. This brought me so much joy because you know me with coffee.
Also, some of the taxi companies decided to give all the staff free rides to, and from the hospital. And let me tell you, ever since this whole thing started, it’s been incredibly hard for me to get to the hospital, so this helped enormously.
While, of course, all of that stuff is kind, what I and my colleagues have noticed is the change of the way the public preserves us. I have worked as a doctor in three countries so far, and to be honest, I have never experienced such respect and appreciation as I do now. People randomly ask you how are you doing, randomly thanking you, taxi drivers advise you to try and take breaks and don’t work too much. I’m not saying that we need that to merely do our job because, by the end of the day, it’s just a job, but really in those situations, it greatly encourages you to get through the day.
I know that this will end, and we will come out of this as better humans. And for people like me, away from their loved ones in this difficult time, I’m going to quote Oasis by saying, “just try not to worry, you’ll see them someday.”
Stay safe, friends.