10 am, Monday, July 28th, 2003
A date I will never forget, one I worked almost eight years to get to
After all the hurdles and humbling of the medical school, I eventually stood up to take the Hippocrates’ oath proudly in front of friends, family, and loved ones. I was happy. I felt elated. Finally, I was going to live the dream. It did not matter anymore how many resit examinations I may have written. The prestigious two letter prefix “DR” had been added to my name and armed with it, I had plans to go forth and save the world.
Through the years, every day brought its own challenges but I made sure I always did my best for my patients. It has not been easy. I have done several consultations and requested several tests to aid my diagnosis and have had to break both good and bad news to my patients.
In all the years of my practice, I developed and improved on showing empathy to my patients and I felt I had become very good at it but it was not until this recent pandemic when the tables changed that I fully realized what my patients have been going through
1.50 pm, Thursday, April 9th,2020
It was my penultimate telehealth consult with a patient. I felt like I had a dry throat, but I kept talking. And then my throat started feeling a little sore, so I paused and took a sip of water from my water bottle. That was it. I started coughing. Coughed through the last 30 seconds of the telehealth consult, while apologizing to the patient on the other side that, “I don’t have a cough, this literally just started”.
I had one more video telehealth call to put through, but I didn’t want to cough through that either, so I sat in my consulting room for 2 minutes, coughed some more and decided to check my temperature. It was 37.2. “That’s not too bad, right?”, my common-sense whispered in my ear. “You have Coronavirus”, a loud, ugly voice shouted in the other ear.
That was when fear and panic set in : sore throat (well, sort of), cough (howbeit from choking on water) and ‘’low -grade fever” (really? Like really??, Common-sense asked?).
I reasoned with myself: I had been very careful, wearing gloves often, washing my hands and using sanitizers like there was no tomorrow. I had even started wearing scrubs to my General Practice clinic. But I remembered I didn’t always wear a mask as there was a recent shortage.
I thought of two patients I had seen within the last 1-2 weeks. One had a bad cough, but ‘slipped’ through the front doors into my consulting room. The other had had brief contact with a positive case.
So I decided. I must get tested for Coronavirus. I owed it to all my patients, especially the more vulnerable ones. And especially, I owed it to my husband and 3 young children. It was the most horrendous test (now I see what my patients go through when I poke that swab down their throats and into their noses).
And then the wait started. It was also a time to look inwards and take stock. You will not understand unless you’ve been through something similar. I looked at my wardrobe, shoes, designer bags. I looked at my beautiful home, the furniture, and fittings. I looked at my bank account, my investments, the whole lot. And the preacher’s words hit me, “Vanity upon vanity. All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Yes, ALL is vanity.
Being COVID-19 positive is not straightaway a death sentence. We know thousands and thousands and thousands have recovered. But then, deep within, I knew thousands and thousands and thousands have also died. Young, middle aged, elderly. So what were my chances? I didn’t know.
As a Christian, Faith kicked in. I spoke the word. I declared it. I sang it. “I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the LORD” (Psalm 118:17).
But then I thought, what if? Where is my soul headed? Have I done enough for God? Have I fulfilled my purpose on earth? Have I fought the good fight enough and have I kept the faith enough? Is my soul headed for ‘home’? Indeed, what shall it profit a man (or woman) to gain the whole world (education, accolades, fame, status, wealth, beauty, designer ’stuff’,) AND LOSE HIS SOUL?
6.11pm, Friday April 10th,2020.
I got a text message from the hospital (this is a good sign). It was my COVID-19 result. IT WAS NEGATIVE.
Dr Ify, E is a Christian Medical Practitioner who sent her story from Australia.