I had been waiting for a FaceTime call back for a few weeks now, excited to share with my friend that I had decided which specialty I would pursue. It was when COVID-19 cast the darkness over New York City that I knew he would no longer be interested in that. My friend is a resident in New York City, and the conversation we had truly put things in a different perspective for me. As a medical student, we were pulled off rotations, observing from the sidelines through the news, social media, and the plethora of COVID-19 related emails from medical societies. There’s a certain guilt you feel, wondering if you could somehow help the situation rather than being home and watching online lectures.
When I finally got the chance to speak with my friend, his face was pale and sunken, like he hadn’t slept in months. He had been working in the emergency department for two weeks now and kept describing the different horrors; the constant stream of patients, the lack of protective equipment, and so on. He mentioned how he would wear the same PPE all shift and work all day with no water or meals, drenched in sweat. He paralleled this to the times we used to play high school football during the months of Ramadan, abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset in the Arizona sun. The goal was to work as hard as you can without causing harm to yourself. During the season, we would often forget about our thirst and hunger, continuing on till the end of practice, similar to finishing a shift. The end of practice was the most painful part, realizing all the energy you just expended without nutrition. In both worlds, we believed we were working toward the greater good.
In a sense, the frontlines become the football field during Ramadan. Slowing down would mean a loss of net gain toward the greater good. But like Ramadan comes to an end, this too will have an end, a shining light at the end of the darkness.
Mohammad Mousa is a medical student.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com