June 2020

I’ve been back in the UK for over a year. So much has changed and I am not just referring to the Covid pandemic. It seems as though we can talk about nothing else and it dominates every aspect of our lives. There has been talk of war on the virus, conquer and defeat, but with little regard to the actual facts of the matter.

Viruses aren’t at war in the classic sense; they just use other living creatures to propagate and survive. True parasites, they do invade our cells and it is not the politicians who fight them, rather our bodies; unfortunately, it is our immune systems responding to the alien, that causes reactions so severe that will for some, make us very ill. Viruses are a highly successful species in evolutionary terms, adapting themselves to suit their ongoing transmission.We are unwilling victims of course and there are many who have succumbed. Yet life goes on and how quickly we accept the situation, if it is not us who are mourning the death of a loved one.

As I write, a member of my wider family is still struggling between life and death after 2 months in intensive care, separated from his loved ones. A personal encounter of this sort, takes all levity out of the situation. An unpredictable danger, a threat to be taken seriously.

Of course there are positives to the pandemic . Our unstable world, which has been ravished by man’s selfish and thoughtless use of its resources, has a chance to recover, just a little. And many of us as individuals have been stopped in our tracks and made to think about what exactly is important to us.

It is heartening to discover how many people are enjoying the freedom that restriction brings. An oxymoron if ever there was one. The musts and oughts have had to take a break and with it, comes time; time for reflection, time to read, time to write.

Not true for everyone of course. Mindful that my job as an Emergency doctor here in the UK, is very different from what some of my international counterparts are experiencing. I am grateful that doctors in the UK do get time off; fortunate too that we have not experienced the overwhelming intensity of some hospitals in Europe, China and the States have encountered. Some flooded with seriously ill patients suffering with covid, that has happened in too many places the world over.

I am not saying that working life has been easy. It was extremely stressful as we prepared, not knowing how exactly the pandemic would ‘hit’. But, when it did, facing our fears brought a modicum of relief, though not of course for the patients and families who needed our services.

Many troubling events the world over. Institutional racism, homophobia, fascism, religious bigotry, communism and many other unnamed injustices. I just don’t know how to navigate through the overwhelming news of atrocity after atrocity. I feel intensely for a while, whether it is anger or sadness or the hopelessness of it all. But I cannot carry it, and I turn away, forget and move on. I cannot change the world, I am no god. So where is the line between apathy and responsibility?

Sitting in the sunshine, watching birds at our feeders, loving the blue skies and the spring flowers. I know that I am lucky; one of the wealthy few in world terms, I have a garden and a house, food on the table and a job to go to. Is it enough to be grateful, I ask myself and sigh, because I have no answers.

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