Hope- The Panacea.
Privileged? Excited? Anxious? I could hardly comprehend the deluge of emotions coursing through me as I inched towards the nursing booth that was administering the COVID-19 vaccine, the much-awaited pandemic panacea in a syringe. You might say calling the vaccine a panacea is an exaggeration, but I say it is not. The year has been beyond grueling for healthcare workers around the world. As a hospitalist, I was tasked with taking care of folks with COVID who were sick enough to be admitted to the hospital. A gamut of experiences would forever shape the way I remember 2020. The dreadful uncertainty of the initial weeks of grappling with the unknown when the virus first hit. And then trying to separate the wheat from the chaff in the booming knowledge clutter about this novel pandemic. Going about the workplace weighed down by the fear of exposing ourselves and our family members back home. Making a connection with the patient was even more challenging behind layers of PPE. Treating physical symptoms aside, tending to the patients’ feelings of despair and fear, while nursing our own, was daunting. Parts of the hospital that I did not know existed—offices, hallways, and closets—converted into hospital beds. © Treat by Alterdoctors
Perhaps what struck me the most while taking care of the afflicted patients was the overwhelming isolation. The stark sadness of having to having to go through it alone; the struggle to breathe being compounded by the suffocation of the four walls in the crammed wards… ‘Harrowing’ would not explain the start of it. But amongst the many tribulations were scattered many a triumph. The joy of seeing somebody’s oxygen saturation levels improve, the palpable relief when I tell worried kith and kin their loved one is doing better, the contagious ecstasy when I inform the patient they are going to go home soon! © Treat by Alterdoctors
My biggest fear (that I have been lucky enough not to encounter yet) is to have to tell someone that we are out of resources to help them. (“Sorry, we have to give this high-flow oxygen machine/ventilator to this younger, healthier woman instead of your grandpa.”) Hopefully, I will never have to encounter my worst fear now that the vaccine is here. The scientific troops have rallied. One must marvel at the tenacious brilliance, perseverance and rigor of the scientific community that has got us here. To this sweet culmination, which gives us hope that this maybe the beginning of the end. © Treat by Alterdoctors
So, is the vaccine a pandemic panacea? Perhaps not wholly, but the vaccine instils a sense of hope, and hope is a panacea unrecognized.-
Dr. Swathi Subramany completed her undergraduate studies at St.John’s medical college, Bangalore and is currently Assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of New Mexico- USA. She credits her childhood friend Dr. Jinju S for reviewing and refining this piece