This is the first time in modern history that humanity is facing a common adversary. As much as Uncle Harry might want to blame the Chinese for this misgiving, it will not change our predicament. The fact is that this time around, our enemy is stealthy, small, and everywhere. We can’t dehumanize, shoot it down, hate it, or send our drones to take care of it. When the enemy finds you, it can drown you on dry land. Drowning is silent but darn painful. Gasping for air on dry land while feeling completely underwater is terrifying. Victims might be silent, but their eyes are anything but. We don’t have any proven ways to treat the disease. We can offer oxygen and ventilation support to alleviate your symptoms, enroll you in one of the many clinical trials, and hope your body can fight it off. This scenario is an option as long as our supplies last.
With the rate the enemy is advancing, we will be out of supplies within a month. At that point, you will receive “comfort care,” which used to be an option a patient can choose at the end of their life, when no more drastic measures are taken. We would manage your pain, offer you oxygen for comfort, make sure your end of life anxiety is taken care of and that you are surrounded by your loved ones. Except for this time, there will be no choice. Comfort care will be your only option if you don’t meet the criteria for more drastic measures. Your comfort care option will also be paired down since we can’t allow visitors, and we will be too busy tending to other patients to be able to sit with you and hold your hand. Dying is a lonely affair, even in the best of times. These, my friends, will not be the best of times.
Don’t panic; odds are still in your favor. Eighty percent of people will have mild disease and will not need to step foot in a hospital. However, for the 20 percent, the situation will play out very differently depending on how we act today. I am far from a doom and gloom kind of person, but I plan and make contingencies for my contingency plan. There is no point in crying over spilled milk. What we should have, could have, ought to have done has now passed. We can only look ahead and do what we can now to make it better.
This is a great time to be an introvert, or practice being one for a long time. Exercise, read, watch a movie, become a baker, and sell cookies, train your dog to grab you a beer. The only acceptable reasons to go outside are: 1) Your dog has to go; 2) You need to buy essentials and there is no delivery (color sprinkles for your cake does not count as an essential); and, 3) You desperately need medical attention. This is a great time to make use of your FaceTime, Instagram, and Facebook. Meanwhile, wash your hands when you touch any surface that is not yours. This is our only way to fight it now.
I am hoping there will be a defense production act, and companies will gear up fast enough to meet demand. The hospitals are making room and allocating scarce resources. We are holding onto our only N95s for dear life. We are all in this together, and this will pass. Things will get worse before they get better. Whatever you do now will affect what options you will have in the next three weeks, and having options is what people before us have died for. I want to protect your rights but cannot do it if you don’t stay home. Stay home. Stay away.
Meet you on the other side.
Maryam Ghiassi is an ophthalmology resident.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com