Dr Muhammad Awais Nawaz
Emergency physician, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH).
I know it sounds both like a cliché and an understatement when we say we are living through challenging times. But, I state it here for the record. And let me get straight to the point: I am an emergency physician. Since I am on the frontline I think I may have a different story to tell. Because the challenges faced on the frontline is entirely different from what others are facing on the road, on the streets, at home or anywhere. Because, as emergency physicians, we are the ones facing the patients, and that challenge is a different one altogether.
Different when you experience it
The healthcare system itself is encountering totally different challenges. And there are many: challenges in diagnosis, treatment of suspected or confirmed cases and everywhere in the world, there is a high burden on the medical system. Of course, this is common knowledge. But since we are the ones who are experiencing it, the feeling is different. People only know that it exists, but we are experiencing it.
Risks are different for front liners
As a front liner, the risks are different and many. Moreover, as an emergency physician, the work overload mounts. So, I repeat: we are really living in challenging times. The other thing is that owing to the risk involved, we are always equipped with PPE (*) kits. But, then a PPE kit is not like a mask that you can remove at will. The kits have to be worn for a pretty long time and that is also a challenge. During the long hours that we wear it, we cannot even take a glass of water or answer nature’s call.
Virus with scruples
Of course, you know about this, but my case is different because I am the one who is experiencing it – so I speak from experience. This is our duty, and we have to take extra caution and care when we are treating the patients. We also face the risk of contracting the virus. And that is why I said our challenges are different. Health care professionals on the front lines of the Coronavirus battle have different set of struggles. Earlier, with other cases, we knew what we are up against, but with the Corona, we are battling an unseen enemy that has no morals and scruples and use any means, even devious ones, to strike its victims.
This is our duty
The other challenge that we, those on the frontlines, face is that if we put ourselves at risk, we are also putting our families at risk. When we go home, we are worried about exposing family members. However, these are the facts and we have to face it. The reason that I have stated them here is to make everyone understand. We, the emergency doctors, also have hearts, we have fears and we also have families, but more importantly, we have a duty and come what may we will engage ourselves in all manner possible to fulfill that duty. This is the life we have chosen and we will do it without a murmur. Those involved in emergency medicine are into it for these reasons: we want to help people and we are here to offer assistance where others can’t. Besides, if we don’t do this, who will?
Disruption is the name of the game
This pandemic has disrupted everything – our day-to-day life, our business, it has put a stop to our movements. It is only when something is taken away from us we realise its importance. And this is the time for such a realisation. It has taken away our celebrations – be it of cultural, festive or religious ones.
Common sense prevails
And the truth is that all of us are stressed. Some beyond the normal means. Some are getting used to it, while others are unable to cope and it is slowly wearing them down. The difficulty is not that we have to stop socialising – the difficulty is that we have to think twice when we are with family itself; while social distancing, two words that we have coined, takes centre stage, but what is pushed to the background is our stark need to be together. Because that is how we were. We were together. We were one. Now, so many things have come in between us. We also have to be extra careful with the elders in the family and while they understand this, it still pains. We are flesh and blood and kindness, warmth and love flows in our veins too and we want to share it with our loved ones but now we have to think twice. But then, after we think twice, we decide against it. As common sense prevail. We don’t have to be doctors or emergency physicians to understand the dangers posed if we expose ourselves, or our loved ones, to this virus.
Discovering the true power in us
And that is where our sense comes in and that is from where our true power gets kick started and we reveal our true selves. There is more to us than meet the eyes; we are more than the simple, vulnerable human beings that we seem to be – no we are strong. We may not be supermen or women, but we have the power to face this crisis.
People of Oman rose to the challenge
Look at how the people of Oman faced this crisis. We rose to the challenge and we united, of course within the new norms, and worked out ways and means to flatten the curve. We showed resilience and courage instead of caving in under the tremendous pressure this virus exerted on us.
We are fighting back
And therein lies the real lesson. If we can face this crisis and find our ways out of it, we are displaying a unique factor that the world has to adopt, nurture, treasure and build upon – we can just about face anything — any crisis, and we will find ways out of them. That is the true lesson we faced. Yes, there was the initial shock, the self-denial and all the pain and the suffering that goes along with it, yet, we have now turned around and are fighting back. That is reason enough to celebrate but we will reserve that for later.
Time to pick up the pieces
Right now, the global leaders and the common man alike — literally everyone – are thinking of how to pick up the pieces, how to move on. For the damage wreaked by the pandemic is not something that can be brushed under the carpet – the impact of it is going to stay for a very long time and in that period we have to think of how to rebuild what is broken or destroyed. We have to think how to regain our health; how to rebuild our finances; how to get new jobs; how to work again and how to rebuild literally everything. For those of us who have lost our loved ones, we have nothing to fill that vacuum and as we live with that pain, we must find out ways and means to bring peace and harmony and try to mend our broken lives. It is going to be a long and arduous journey but we have no option but to take that path.