I first published this post on Facebook, where it was shared over 100 times, so I thought I’d re-jig it and share it here, too.
My husband is Head of Respiratory Medicine at Joondalup Health Campus. In March, Joondalup hospital (along with every other hospital in Australia) prepared to be inundated with huge numbers of very sick COVID-19 patients, as had happened in the US, Europe and China.
Outpatient clinics and elective and semi-elective surgery were cancelled, while surgical wards and theatres prepared to become makeshift ICUs. Those decisions mainly affected the elderly and vulnerable as their clinic appointments were postponed and surgical procedures delayed.
Each day my husband went to work and saw his frightened patients. Their lungs already compromised, they were anxious about their chances if they caught the virus. They wanted reassurance from my husband, something he couldn’t provide because he knew most of them would not survive if they caught it. He’s been seeing many of his patients for ten or fifteen years, getting to know them and their families over that time, and each night he came home worried how many of his patients would still be alive in six months’ time.
Our daughter graduated Medicine last year. In March, a few months after graduating, she and the other junior doctors were warned that they may run out of ICU beds and ventilators and, if the need arose, they would have to make decisions about who to save and who to palliate. If the need arose.
The need did not arise. There were enough ventilators and the ICUs were not overrun. The reason: closure of the borders, social distancing and isolation.
We are in a very good situation with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. We have flattened the curve and our hospitals have not been overrun. This country has avoided the catastrophic loss of life we’ve seen happen elsewhere. Border closures, social distancing and isolation have saved, and are saving, lives.
When people die from COVID, their family are not around, but they don’t die alone because they are being cared for by the hospital staff. The staff are in the room with them, gowned up in PPE to minimise their own risks. The masks chafe, they sweat under the layers, they can’t scratch themselves or go to the toilet for hours at a time, but they stay with each patient, administering to their needs as they die.
It’s been a scary time for everyone, and now the numbers have dropped and it’s easy to feel like we can relax, go back to normal. Or even wonder if all the restrictions and self-isolation were necessary. But, as a dear friend said the other day, it’s like a maiden over in cricket – nothing much happens but the spectators can’t see how hard the bowler and fielders are working to keep the batsmen scoreless.
We are not out of the woods yet. This virus has not gone away and, as restrictions ease, it will continue to cause outbreaks.
We know it’s lethal but, for those who survive, very little is known about its longterm effects. It must be contained until there’s a vaccine or treatment, and that requires everyone to do their bit to prevent outbreaks and stop the spread of this disease.
No one can completely socially isolate—we still need to buy food, see a doctor, the elderly need carers in their homes. We need to keep the levels of COVID low in the community to protect the vulnerable.
If you make the choice to put yourself at risk, you are putting others at risk, too, and you are not giving them a choice. This isn’t just about you; this is about the community.
It goes against our nature not to touch, hug or kiss when we greet each other, but if we don’t take these measures for this relatively short period of our lives—and this even shorter period in the history of the world—many, many more people will have their lives cut short.
You can still see whoever you want—just don’t touch them.
You can go wherever you want—just don’t get close to anyone else.
This is not a belief or an opinion or open to debate—this is a fact. It’s an inconvenience, but if you feel it is too much to ask, that’s short-sighted and selfish of you.
We must protect our vulnerable, or what does that say about us as a community?