A new disease for health workers too
For almost all health professionals, this is uncharted territory. We knew that the number of people infected with COVID-19 was going to rise—but not that it would happen so quickly. And we are going to continue to see a dramatic increase in the numbers, because many of the patients we send home return a few days later when their symptoms get worse. Those with a pre-existing condition can present with symptoms such as low blood pressure or low levels of oxygenation. If they have pneumonia and difficulty breathing, we intubate them. This is concerning, because we may not have enough ventilators. The situation is also difficult for the patients, who are not allowed to have family members accompany them.
These are highly stressful circumstances for all health professionals and for our patients. We want to provide them with the best possible care, but at the same time we have to protect ourselves to avoid carrying the virus back home to our families, and to avoid becoming ill ourselves. It is especially hard when you see a colleague your own age become sick and need intubation. This is when we remember our own mortality. And we have not seen the worst yet.
It is always necessary to consider health on a global scale. Controlling communicable diseases is complicated, because what happens in one country has an impact on others, through immigration, tourism, and other ways. Therefore, it is important to be prepared for any crisis.
Nine hours, 12 hours go by in the hospital, almost nonstop. At the end of a night shift, we are exhausted. We take off our PPE. We wash ours hands. We leave behind the tents and the patients who keep on coming. They remain in the capable hands of our colleagues; now it is their turn to risk contagion.
Passion, doubts and hope
We return to our homes and our families, always mindful of social distancing. We wonder whether the coronavirus has come in with us, on our clothes or on our skin. When we get into the house, we clean the soles of our shoes with chlorine bleach. We change our clothes. Before we hug our beloved children, we wash our hands again. We can’t remember how many times we have washed them already today. Our skin is dry and cracked.