Though uncertainty and fickleness have been the hallmarks of our lives since eternity, with the surge in the second wave of the coronavirus, desperation, depression and despondency have also set in to test our patience and fortitude.
As clinicians, we form the first line of defence against the physical and mental afflictions of the people. For the administration, a death may be a mere statistic but for a family doctor, it’s heartbreak. Though our emotions are well concealed by the thick veil of the PPE kit all through the day, once we rest our heads against the pillow at night, a hurtling train of thoughts begins to rattle our minds and souls with a brutal ferocity. Our hearts go out to our patients, gasping for air, and their kith and kin, with many of whom we form a close association over a period of time.
Patients don’t forget to invite their family doctor to the birthday celebrations or the wedding ceremonies of their sons and daughters. And, in illness and grief too, we hold their hands and pat their shoulders to help them tide over the crisis. But now, the times have come to such a pass that we can’t do anything but express our utter helplessness at their misery. Our emotions are ably hidden from the eyes of the patients by the multi-layer protective gear while we can very well gauge the desperation and anxiety writ large on the faces of the panic-stricken patients through our foggy face shields and moist eyes.
Recently, I lost my uncle and aunt to Covid-19 within a span of 24 hours. I received the news during my clinic hours. A flood of memories of my childhood spent in their company, in a joint family, inundated my mind in a flash. I thought of calling it a day as I slumped into my chair, exasperated. But when I looked at an unending stream of patients through the CCTV, waiting for consultation and reassurance, I gathered myself with the thought that every one of the waiting patients was an uncle or aunt of someone who must be praying for his/her recovery, and resumed working by concealing my emotions under the garb of the protective gear.
As the lethal virus is snuffing out thousands of lives of the young and the old, the known and the unknown, the rich and the poor alike, sometimes I feel like screaming at the top of my voice, ‘I, as a doctor, have failed to deliver. I can’t save my patients from the clutches of this virus. Don’t look up to me as a saviour.’
But then, I pull myself together and brace for another day by reminding myself of the famous words of the father of medicine, Hippocrates, ‘A physician seldom cures, relieves often, but comforts always.’
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