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Gloves in the Time of Corona

Written by Dr. Jonathan M Sackier  | Concerned surgeon

Love in the Time of Cholera, the widely known 1985 novel by one of my favourite authors, Gabriel García Márquez, primarily details the affairs of three main characters, their obligations and acts, both good and bad. Additionally, there are supporting actors whose roles, although small, are critical to the plot.  Now, in the time of Corona, where avoiding touching, masks and physical distancing dominate the headlines, it is perhaps appropriate to consider some of the other characters in this attention-grabbing drama.

This is a serious pandemic; as of today, March 25th 2020 at 6pm UK time, the numbers are stark: 453,074 cases, 20,519 deaths, and 113,121 have recovered (www.worldometers.info/coronavirus).  Hospitals and healthcare workers are struggling with a growing tsunami of demand, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are being overwhelmed by often duplicate requests, sharing of medical information is subject to many barriers and philanthropists who desire to make financial gifts are bemused as to where they should donate. That is why EMJ has stepped up, and set up, an online resource to bring those who have needs and those who have assets together to resolve these supply issues, to help disseminate critical medical information and to provide guidance on charitable resources. Please let everyone you know about this resource https://www.emg-health.com/covid-19/ so that it can grow and help mitigate these issues.

People are probably weary of reading about handwashing, not touching their face, social (really physical) distancing and self-isolation. So, I want to address five other trends that pose – or encourage – clear and present dangers:

  1. There is an enormous of amount of heinous disinformation on the internet, many messages being copied, pasted, retweeted and broadcast. Some of these dishonestly ascribe the content to venerable healthcare institutions or universities (Stanford for instance) or to a “trusted friend” who is usually a “doctor” or “expert.” Daft recommendations that gargling with warm water, or, heaven forbid, bleach, will prevent an infection, or holding your breath to check respiratory function if concerned one might be infected. One crazy piece caught my attention, suggesting that people of color were somehow immune; kudos to British actor Idris Elba, who has been infected and posted video messages. Any information you see, please check where it came from and validate accuracy by searching authoritative sites before forwarding to your social group. And as for the people who disseminate this sort of stuff, they should be ashamed of themselves and, in my opinion, prosecuted. Do your bit to stop this nonsense. And if it isn’t disinformation, or “fake news,” it is semi-information where a snippet is widely promulgated as fact. In the interim do as healthcare practitioners recommend and ignore the fearmongers.
  2. The panic buying and hoarding of groceries and other essential items is crazy, causes problems for others, raises anxiety levels and creates a vicious social spiral. However, this behavior is to be expected in circumstances when people feel threatened; think of the 1950’s where schoolchildren practiced crouching under their desks during a nuclear drill. Would it have helped? No. But at least people thought they were doing So please, encourage everyone to show restraint. Breathe, relax and in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, another beloved author, Don’t Panic! And buying excessive numbers of toilet rolls will not save your arse – staying at home will!
  3. The perpetual assault on one’s psyche is emotionally draining, so please, don’t dwell on it. Maybe check the news twice daily, but no more than that. Medicine is making strides, vaccine trials to prevent infection are beginning, there are advances in rapid antibody testing and currently available drugs, such as those usually used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, are being deployed to good effect and others are being rapidly evaluated. But there are other things in life to think about.
  4. If working from home or self-isolating, do not use this period of time to gain weight, drink too much alcohol or just binge-watch television. Start an exercise program, learn a new skill, develop new healthy habits such as going to bed earlier (sleep is important for a properly functioning immune system). Read some good books to exercise your brain and schedule video chats with loved ones and old friends. Use the time positively.
  5. If you are feeling anxious, depressed and scared, think about how people in your neighborhood who are elderly, alone and have other problems might feel. Practice random acts of kindness such as going shopping for someone or maybe, if a restaurant or bar in your area is closing for the duration, tell them you would like to prepay for a few meals and will collect at some point in the future. That way we can preserve jobs and help ease the recovery when it does come. And it will.

Although a different style of author to Gabriel García Márquez, Tom Clancy’s storytelling always resonated with me, such as his 1989 novel, Clear and Present Danger. We have a very clear and present danger that will have sequelae beyond the health and financial consequences. But how we behave can, and will, affect the outcome because some of those consequences might reflect how we can work, socialize and live in a more globally harmonious fashion.

I also hope that these messages resonate with you and, as “take charge” sort of people, leaders in your respective communities, you can do your part to encourage good behaviours and suppress bad.  With your help, we will get through this and will be stronger on the other side. I send my wishes to all of you, be safe, be healthy, be strong and be kind.

(Published in different format online at https://pilot-protection-services.aopa.org/news/2020/april/01/clear-and-present-danger)