Encounter with COVID-19 : Confessions of a young doctor
Dr Leima Chanu Shakti Yambem
Hello, white page. Here we meet, again. With indie Japanese rock song in the background, shall we start spilling matters of the gray matter that had been hidden too well ?
With black scrubs and copper gold stethoscope, I was talking to my friends. Warm, thick coffee greeting our lips as we laughed about the most mundane of daily events. I just had a night duty and was trying to ignore the annoying runny nose and body ache that little sleep brings over. It is hard for us to take sick leaves. Someone needs to cover up for you. I brushed it off. What does a little tiredness mean when you are on emergency duty ?
Little did I know that my RTPCR report would come that evening and a friend told me, I was positive. I believed I said some swear words in my head which for professional reasons, I could not account here. I made a call to my mom. Dad picked it up. I felt guilty that I got sick and they had to worry. Calls came from different people. I simply refused them. I was not in the mental space to hear their good wishes.
I am a person who is quite vocal about emotions, words, work, poetry in her little Instagram world but I needed to shut off. I had never seen myself do that. Some news shifts your perspective in an entirely new direction.
Ever since August last year, we had been fighting the pandemic. I guess I got complacent since I didn’t get it before. I have tested eleven times till now. And the moment, when my immunity lapsed, it invaded. Who was I kidding ! Of course. I always had the necessary protection but I was a biological tissue after all.
There’s no heroism when you fall sick. There is nothing poetic about a sacrifice made with trembling hands. Suddenly, you are left to defend for yourself. I wondered why I chose this job. If it was too late to pick up my pen and ship off to Hawaii. I might have some gifts from grandparents. All the glory, nobility and kindness were lost in the sea every time I saw my SP02 fluctuating. And it’s funny how people forget that in spite of everything, my colleagues were still there with fear racing their young hearts and panic stricken brows.
What a time ! Suddenly it is like young boys picking up their guns with shaking fingers and going off to World War II. There’s no beauty in War. There’s no beauty in Covid.
The second day was hard. I remembered fresh salty tears rushing off my big round eyes like Mercedes Benz. I believed journaling helped. It’s an art of washing the threads of your heart and wringing it dry so that it beats for you properly again when you put it back. And I had a sudden unprovoked anger at the virus. But I kept telling myself that my body, my lungs, my soul are stronger than this microorganism.
Call it woo-hoo but positive affirmations in the brain wave help to combat certain situations. I blasted some music and danced. I needed some exercise anyway for my mental health. Youth has its craziness sometimes. My personal revolution against this unforgiving time.
But I was scared. Deep down to the marrow of my femur (the bone in your thigh), I had a chilling sensation when the cough originated from my chest and I start pushing my food away. There’s this concept called Amor Fati in an ancient school of philosophy called Stoicism.
It translates to not only embrace fate but also to love it. I used to preach about it yet faced with a virus that had killed humans before, I wanted to cling onto dear life as much as possible. Qi Gong calmed me down. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is a practice of combining breathwork, consciousness and mild movements to keep your life force, Qi, in flow. I personally believe health should have a holistic approach and subscribe to the notion of West Medicine meeting East Medicine. I know it is different from the science I’ve been taught but in this myriad of beautiful strange events happening in the universe, there are secrets that Homo Sapiens haven’t learnt yet. The cocktail of three herbs found in my hometown, Nong Mang Kha, Neem and Uriksibi, entered my nasopharynx through steam inhalation.
Is this another Darwinian step of evolution, I wonder ? Are humans modelling themselves as they face the next step of mankind. Shall we be able the climb the ladder ?
And during my recovery process, I heard a terribly sad news of a bereaved patient’s family member attacking a junior doctor and tearing her PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). I can’t forgive anyone in the name of grief and intense shock because we are extremely scared too. Trust me ! Barely entering mid-twenties, with some unexperienced notion of a sense of duty, we don the PPE and climb down the stairs to enter the War Zone.
I have experienced this before last September, when a mob of furiously ferocious people from a corner of Manipur, would pounce upon the health institute. Dear Public, every time you blame the doctor, our eyes go to a glory civilized part of the world where they will pay us better in another foreign currency, of course, and treat us as humans. I can already get a sense of the Brain Drain happening from this land so dear to our hearts. My generation, this millennial age, has its flaws but we are also diving deep into our identity and figuring out our roots. I don’t know why I am writing this. The one who attacks us won’t be reading anyway. But I had to write, I had to take it out of my system for a dim little light through the cracks of the rock, that I can change one person’s mind and she can change another’s.
This is a pivotal moment in the history books of our race. And a disease that mocks death ! My dad told me once that a Covid death is a lonely affair and takes away the dignity that death deserves. There is no one to offer flowers at the grave, no visit from a friend to hug your tears except a sad note on a social media page. It makes everything so virtual and takes away the essence that makes us humane.
I wrote this poem a month ago. I will add it here. I don’t know if its allowed in the general sense of a newspaper article yet, it seems apt. So, apology for breaking the rule.
“What a time it is, when people are dropping dead like stone pebbles in a pond
What a world we are in, when healthy people suddenly forgot how to breathe
What a disease it is, when we finally got a grip on our mortality.
What a life it is, when it slips like grains of sand between our finger tips.”
Well, Dear readers, I will end this morose essay soon. I don’t have much wisdom nor experience in this 26-year-old mind, but I believe, ‘There comes a time, when we heed a certain call, when the world must come together as one’, to quote USA for Africa, to survive and evolve. That’s our strength. My love goes out to everyone fighting this war in whatever state or stage. Till we meet again.xoxo.
The writer is currently pursuing her Post Graduation in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, JNIMS.