Per ardua ad astra
As a government doctor working in a District Hospital, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a time of experiencing constant anxiety and fear and of building increasing hope and resilience to carry on, one day at a time.
As positive cases rise and suspects pour in, our government supply of PPE, masks, gloves, and sanitisers dwindle and fear and worry loom -- for how long are we safe? As the onslaught of routine OPD cases continues, we barely have time to wonder if the child or adult with fever and cough, sitting next to us could be a Corona carrier or case? And how protected are we in our rationed surgical or cloth mask, washed and reused daily?
Every day, our Rapid Response Teams return from mohallas, slum clusters, deras and posh colonies after tedious hours of contact tracing, sampling the home quarantined and suspects; soaked in sweat in their protective layers, with no food or water or bathroom use allowed. And they prey fervently that they wake up the next day without experiencing any symptoms themselves.
As a slew of notifications and unverified information circulate on the internet, we are left unsure about what exactly is the right patient approach at any given time. Why can’t IAP/IMA/ICMR/Govt release standardized, regularly updated e-guidelines – a common collated strategy for the battlefield?
After we return home to almost an hour’s scrupulous self-sanitising before meeting our spouse, children and old parents, we wonder if we, ourselves, are the biggest risk to the health and lives of our loved ones?
Then there are endless household chores waiting – food to be cooked, cleaning and dishes to be done, children to be managed – as without any domestic help, tuitions or classes in Curfew times, everything becomes our sole responsibility. As the bank balance depletes and our month’s pay is not released, we briefly ponder – how without our modest government salary will we manage our home finances?
As we eat our weekly Hydroxychloroquine or read reports of BCG or (Indian) immunity being protective, we cling to a glimmer of unproven hope in an otherwise bleak scenario.
At a time when we, the faceless ‘Women and Men in White’, face disease and death daily, it’s the support of our colleagues and staff that keeps us going strong. Our WhatsApp group, besides its grim data of positive tests and deaths, has daily buck-up messages from our SMO, a peppy number sung by our resident medical bard, de-stressing tips from our hospital psychiatrist or “medical-humour-in-Covid-times” messages -easing the worry lines on our faces!
As a Frontline Warrior, I remember my Medical College motto – Per Ardua ad astra (through adversity to the stars). And we get ready every day with prayer, determination and discipline to face the worst odds, and with the unflinching faith that all this will end soon…and end well… for all.
(The author is a Pediatrician at District Hospital Mohali, Punjab.)