Beyond the medical lessons learned from COVID


COVID- 19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is approximately 120 nm in diameter. To put it in non-scientific terms, its physical size may be diminutive, but its impact has been devastating on the entire human race. Who knew that this tiny but mighty virus would hold the world hostage or make the year 2020 historical, to say the least.

Like all of you, I was not prepared to face the challenges that this virus would bring. Indeed, as physicians, we get hours of training on how to react in a health-related emergency. While doing so, we refer to the epidemics and pandemics that have imperiled the world. However, such trainings and drills are only part of a narrative that we, as medical practitioners, are simulating. Nothing could have prepared us to deal with this kind of catastrophe taking place in real-time. Despite having all the best possible scientific and medical resources available, it left us feeling helpless and hopeless.

It started to invade our lives like a malignant tumor, the spread of which we could not contain. Throughout such time, it disguised and manipulated its unseen and undiscovered complications resulting in unimaginable suffering and fatalities all around the world. It felt as if the world had come to a halt: Was that its goal, to make the human race stop and rethink? That is the question that came to my mind as I endeavored to develop a positive approach towards dealing with this uninvited guest forcing upon us an apparent end of time.

What I have witnessed is not just re-adjustment in life but also a re-arrangement in our medical practices. It has necessitated reconsidering treatment plans to incorporate unconventional ideas. Virtual medicine, meetings, seminars, and board review courses have now become the new norm. Wearing masks and face shields is becoming palatable by adding a new fashion statement to their making. Social distancing is not considered to be a measure of being antisocial. While scientists worked endlessly to learn more about this mysterious virus and the diseases it was causing, it also pushed us to re-write the fundamentals of critical care that we provide to patients.

So I did what this mysterious virus wanted all of us to do; I stopped and gave myself space and time to think. This time of reflection brought with it unlikely enlightenment for me. I was able to stop blaming every change in my life and others on the dreaded virus, and that is when I stopped running an endless race of achieving perfection. An overwhelming sense of gratitude surrounded me, and I realized that the deadly virus that I considered to be my biggest enemy has also turned out to be one of the best teachers of my life. It has taught me to be thankful for each deep breath I am able to. It has taught me to be humble. After all, we are humans, and we will make mistakes all the time. It has taught me to look outside the box and accept challenges outside of my comfort zone. It has taught me to stop running an endless race; eventually, we all need to stop to catch our breath. Above all, it has taught me how to determine the value of time. I know now that the time I spend with my son, my husband, my family, and with myself is, in fact, invaluable.

So, I am thankful to you SARS-CoV-2 virus as you allowed me to be human again, to make mistakes, and learn from them. You taught me to slow down so that I could reset and redefine my goals. You allowed me to have time for myself, to dream again, and plan my future. You pushed me out of my comfort zone and re-explore what I thought was possible or impossible. You helped me re-embrace my imperfections and love myself just the way I am! You showed me that this pandemic is a circumstance beyond my control and that there will many more circumstances, such as this one in life. However, what will always remain within my control or reach is my own thoughts about, and reaction to, such times. It is up to me now how I want to re-shape them to get to the results I want to see. Thank you, COVID-19, for being a great teacher. I respect you. I am not afraid of you but will always be cautious of you.

An enlightened thought: Rest is important in life. We all need to make time to stop, rest, rethink, and give ourselves grace. We are all human beings, and it’s OK to make mistakes as long as we learn valuable lessons from them. It is these lessons that ultimately become the gateway to our success. Pandemic or no pandemic, my dear friends, you are all amazing, along with your imperfections. Do not stop challenging yourself. There is nothing that you cannot achieve. Sometimes, all that you need is a moment of pause to make way for an enlightened thought for re-writing just one chapter in the book called life.

Annie Nawab is a pulmonary and critical care physician.

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