It’s been more than 2 weeks since Malta confirmed its first case of COVID-19. Since then, new cases have been identified on a daily basis with Health Authorities engaging in a continuous effort to keep the emergence of new cases under control.
The symptoms of this disease were made very clear to the public. They have been asked to co-operate by minimizing social contact, staying at home, washing their hands and avoid touching their face.
COVID-19 induced a feeling of uncertainty and fear all throughout our small nation. It has challenged people from different walks of life and is forcing us to make sacrifices.
As a doctor at Mater Dei Hospital’s Emergency Department, I am no stranger to such challenges and sacrifices.
I’ve decided to shed some light on professional and personal tribulations I’ve been through up until now.
Firstly, it is a new disease, identified less than 3 months ago. Despite the virus being similar to other viruses we know about, specific statistics are still being gathered, guidelines are in evolution and targeted treatments are still being studied. This is one of the biggest hurdles we are facing as a medical community.
You’ve surely heard a lot about “flattening the curve”. The major concern is that of not being able to provide an adequate service to those who need it most, should the number of COVID-19 cases explode over a relatively short period. Just for the sake of argument, let us for a second imagine Mater Dei was a restaurant. It has finite stocks of food, a limited number of appliances, chefs, waiters and tables. It is the ONLY restaurant on the island. Staff are willing to feed everyone, especially the most hungry (the critically ill). However, this can only be achieved if patrons attend the restaurant gradually over the span of weeks. This allows for the food to be adequately prepared and served in a timely manner in order to satisfy one’s hunger. If a large number of patrons had to show up at the restaurant simultaneously on the same day, the kitchen and staff would simply not cope with the demand, and ultimately, the restaurant wouldn’t be able to feed the patrons.
The recent reports of community spread augmented the feeling of uncertainty and unease. I have been showing up for work to serve as best I can those who need me most, but at the back of mind I am continuously wondering about the possibility of getting infected or, worse still, passing the virus on to my pregnant wife.
Despite my rigorous hand washing and precautions, the simple gesture of hugging or kissing my wife upon getting back home from work started to make me feel uneasy. The prospect of passing the virus on to her lingered.
For this reason we’ve had to make a huge personal sacrifice. She moved out of the house and in with her parents. I am self-isolating at home. Despite the heartbreak, this is the only way we could put our minds at rest.
I am not meeting my parents, nor my in-laws, nor my grandparents.
I am missing out on my baby’s ultrasound scans out of respect for my wife and other pregnant ladies at the clinic. What if I had to develop any symptoms the day after the visit?
Despite all of the above, I am committed to serve those in need without expecting any increase in wage or any financial compensation. That is the oath I took 6 years ago.
We all have different characters, attitudes and respond to stressful situations differently. But we are all humans and thus we all deserve respect. It feels bad when you don’t feel respected, and feelings are what stick with us.
So I reiterate my plea for respect. Respect yourselves, those around you and the ones who are putting themselves in harm’s way to limit the devastation COVID-19 can bring upon our small, closely-knit community.
Do what I wish I could – STAY AT HOME WITH YOUR FAMILIES!
I dedicate this entry to my wife, Maria. I love you!