The ITU sister walks past. A blank stare covers her weary face. She is going home after a night shift. I’ve known her for over thirty years. We took our baby steps in ITU together all those years ago. She stayed put while I gave up and ventured into happier domains, labour ward, where new life was welcomed. And she stayed to look after patients in extremis. I don’t think she saw me or even if she did she is on autopilot. The face sums it all up. The anxiety, the fear, the unknown, awaiting us all.
None of us have been in this situation before. We don’t know what is going to happen. Plans are being made around us, for us and sometimes with us. Virology, a part of medicine, learnt during our medical school years and long forgotten is now engulfing us all. We read every information and yet are none the wiser.
Kanthi says she has stopped reading. She knows enough to look after the patients, that’s enough. Everything else is just adding to the distress. Another colleague is worried and having difficulty sleeping. He has a young family. He feels that he can’t talk about this to his wife. It will increase her anxiety. Others worry that they have to self isolate if family members are unwell. The government order is to self isolate for 14 days if that is the case. There is no option at the moment to be tested to see if it is the virus causing the symptoms. And yet if we come into contact with a Covid 19 positive patient, we are meant to carry on as usual unless we fall ill and that is what we are doing.
People are worried. Stories from Italy and Spain are looking like movies coming true to life with people confused and scared out of their wits. For us, elective cases have been cancelled and we await changes to our work pattern. When the Zika, Ebola, nipah, swine flu, SARS and MERS viruses struck, we looked at it from afar and was relieved that it wasn’t our fight. Now however the war is beginning and the perpetrator is tinier than can be seen through a microscope. Size doesn’t matter it seems if you are a slippery virus and the world is at its mercy.
In the midst of all this there are some good news. Pollution is less with people staying home and the air cleaner. ISIS have suspended their attacks on the infected nations and our boys (the consultant colleagues) have all shaved off their goatees and beards. The masks wouldn’t provide adequate cover otherwise and they have no choice. They look like anaesthetic trainees now. They will perfectly fit into their ITU roles and look the part. For the rest of us we await the unraveling of the storm.