I, like many of my physician colleagues, nurses, and healthcare workers, have spent my entire adult life sacrificing everything to help others, trying to serve the sickest of the sick. However, for every patient I have saved, you have seemingly multiplied by thousands your vast net of suffering. It takes me just seconds to visualize my weakest, immunosuppressed, heart transplant patients, who have already given everything to survive, to realize how much you want to kill them.
Several weeks ago, in a span of an hour, I internalized for the first time the number of patients, families, front-line doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other healthcare providers that have succumbed to death because of you, attempting to save people who are just strangers to them but are dearly loved by others. I understood this is not just another cold virus, an influenza mimicker, or a piece of political propaganda named “pandemic.” This is, simply stated, a world war.
I do not say this lightly – I am calling you out; we know your intentions. This war that you have silently declared against the entire human race is not only a threat to the sickest and the eldest, but also to the young and healthy, irrespective of their net worth. Slowly but surely, you, COVID-19, have made it very clear that this is everyone’s war.
All of us are in this fight against you, whether we want to accept it or not. Nonetheless, there are still incredulous people out there. Some people still also believe that the earth is flat or that we never landed on the moon. However, this is not a complicated conspiracy theory. There is a very small degree of separation between you, not yet convinced reader, and someone you love that will die from this pandemic. In an exponential and accelerated fashion, we are all about to sleep together and share a household with COVID-19’s deadly claws.
But you know all of this, COVID-19. In fact, you have taken advantage of almost every country, including America, by slowly disguising your symptoms, by casting doubts on your intentions, and by spreading through asymptomatic hosts who were incredulous to your advance. Nowadays, we are closing borders, grounding flights, and locking down cities, but you have already anticipated all of this – you are already weeks ahead of our actions.
Throughout this war that you have created, I have gone from a transplant cardiologist to a front-line biological soldier trying to stop my patients and loved ones from dying. We do not have enough masks or testing capabilities, so we constantly discuss how much we can try to stop the spread of this disease and treat our patients without protecting ourselves. Just like all of my colleagues around the world, I am eager and happy to fight the fight to save lives. I have read everything I can to get prepared, I have brushed up on my advanced ventilator management, and spent my canceled vacation in self-isolation at home; trying to fill myself with the knowledge to defeat you. But we, as medical providers, and soldiers in this war, need real help.
On Monday, I am going back to work in the hospital where I deeply worry you will try to kill me. By next week, I don’t even know if we will have enough N-95 masks to protect us while we fight to save others. Yes, there are 35 million masks that were advertised by our government, but to this date, they are not available to us. Somehow, in a National Emergency, in the midst of a war against you, COVID-19, it’s our responsibility as soldiers to fetch these weapons and shields to protect ourselves and fight the enemy.
Overall, this all feels so surreal, in a nightmare kind of way. It is as worrisome as knowing that the top military power in the world is sending all of its armed forces and soldiers (i.e., healthcare professionals) to fight without good intelligence/satellite data (not enough or fast COVID-19 testing kits), having no guns or ammunition (no approved treatments), sending snipers without scopes (limited numbers of ventilators), patrol missions without tanks or simple bullet-proof vests (zero vaccines and not enough N-95s or personal protection equipment). In addition, if things get worse, which they will, we know very well that there are no jet fighters to save the day or rescue helicopters out there (but we will all keep looking up at the sky, praying daily for more help). On top of this nightmare scenario, during the darkest moment of this war, the military asks our medical soldiers to just keep working sick without medical leave and to continue exposing ourselves, using knives, kitchen pans, and rocks instead of tanks and guns (e.g., “use bandanas and scarves in place of a mask”). Thus, COVID-19, I congratulate you for being once again ahead of us by at least another handful of weeks, if not months. By then, if we do not act promptly and change the course, this war will be lost.
So, yes, maybe this is all about me letting everyone know how I feel. About all of it. My fears and my hopes. My anger and my tears. My eagerness to fight on a leveled battlefield with the right weapons, protections, intelligence data, and appropriate war-time backup. But also, deep inside, I just want my government and the world to know how proud I feel about physicians, nurses, and all the healthcare providers that are fighting this war for all of us across other countries and within America.
If we all do our part, even by social distancing and slowing the spread, we will all be helping the world’s medical soldiers to win each individual battle. At the end of the day, we all need to be part of the solution, or else we will all be on the wrong side of history.
God bless us all and help us to destroy you, COVID-19.
Rafael S. Garcia-Cortes is a transplant cardiologist.
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