Nothing has tested the mettle of many physicians like the covid-19 pandemic. As the crisis lurches on, we are faced with hefty decisions every day, and some of them take a heavy toll on our resolve and even mental health.
Make no mistake, the pandemic is still in full swing, and there are little signs of ebbing of the tide. Further afield, giants like India are reeling under a surge of covid-19 deaths. The world must act and save the world’s pharmacy.
But three things have tested my mettle the most. Sometimes I count it God’s grace that I can still wake up and head to work. Being in the eye of the storm is no easy job.
1. Scarcity of Beds
Nothing breaks my heart than relatives of a patient who is barely breathing calling me and requesting my help to get them a bed.
This time, they are in a casualty somewhere, and the hospital says they can’t admit them, there’s no space. You call all your contacts and don’t succeed.
You call back to tell them you’ve done your best. They ask you, should we let him or her die? That’s a deep question.
It’s the more distressing when the patient needs ICU, and the only places you can get have huge deposit demands, often between 200-600k. You feel the distress on behalf of the patient, but you’re lost on what to do.
And the gatekeepers in some of our public hospitals aren’t easy to deal with. I have called many times, told there’s no bed, only to hear there are a few reserved beds. You wonder why someone can play difficult games with life.
2. Uncertainty of the Disease
I have ended up treating friends and their close relatives. Often, they want an assurance that their kin will be well, and they demand to know how long it will take.
Well, from experience, this disease is random and sometimes brutal. Slowly, we are learning that there are no guarantees. A patient who is stable now can get a cardiac arrest the next minute.
And woe unto you if you’d given unqualified assurances. You have to face relatives and tell them it happened.
So, we learn to be cautious in optimism and to take a day at a time.
We are increasingly handling cases where relatives want to have their way. I have had a patient whose 7 relatives would call almost every 2 hours, all from different places.
I would ignore most of their calls, and a barrage of messages would come in. A colleague of mine was being called from all corners of the world until she couldn’t work well.
And I had one whose relatives demanded to know why I was not giving vitamin C to their dad, and one of them even suggesting my motives weren’t good.
Of course, we know this treatment is mostly placebo. Each of the relatives has a suggestion, a complaint, a reprimand, a compliment, etc.
That’s how human nature is, and nothing brings out human nature than challenges.
All in all, we trudge on, fueled by the unremitting Grace of Providence, buoyed by love, driven by enthusiasm, and hopeful of a better tomorrow.
In this journey, we score victories, a few painful failures, and many lessons- that’s how life must be.
(Adapted from Dr. Paul Bundi Karau)