Another Sunday, Easter Sunday. Warm this morning and then a steady decline in temperature as a sheet of high cloud moves in from the north. The sunlight becomes watery.
At last a long talk with my son on the phone. We talk about what is happening in the hospital where he works. The attritional nature of the situation is taking its toll on staff of all levels.
We talk of the rhetoric of war that is adopted by the ministers of state and trumpeted by the mass media. It is not a war. It does not demand heroics. It is a process that requires cool heads and teamwork. It is treating and nursing people who may, or may not survive.
A doctor unable to get his face mask on correctly is prevented from rushing into see a patient in crisis by his colleagues because this is foolhardy. They cannot afford to lose another colleague; he has a family to consider; he might subsequently infect his colleagues; he may carry the virus to other patients, shop staff, or bus drivers. He is helped by his colleagues to correctly position the protective equipment, then he attends to the patient.
The work has become much more physical, as well as demanding in its technical requirements. Being properly attired, constrained within the gowns, masks, visors, gloves is tiring. Then there is the emotional drain of dealing with a virus that has no antidote.
The job is to keep the patient alive, or to be with the patient while they die, as no one else can be present given the contagious nature of this illness. Whether someone lives or dies seems to depend on each body’s capacity to contain the virus while the medical team do everything they can do to sustain oxygen levels and keep vital organs functioning.
These are individual cases of our fellow human beings being struck down and then cared for while the virus replicates using their bodies as a host, or stops replicating and they recover. The answer lies in there somewhere, with the survivors. Those who die may fall to respiratory failure, or organ failure as their bodies do not have the capacity to sustain a response to the virus living inside them. The deaths are not all down to the virus per se. Living or dying is down to inherent and acquired weaknesses in the bodies of the patients and, it seems, the vigour of the dose of the virus received.
What could we do to reduce the toll on our lungs? Do not smoke. Review our attitudes and habits around alcohol. Build exercise into our daily lives. Maintain a healthy weight. Eat a balanced, varied diet. Build lung capacity. Of course, one could act on all these and still be struck down by an inherited illness, such as heart failure, but then we never could choose our parents.
So we do not know what will happen to us individually if touched on the shoulder by this spectre. This makes how we live today, how we interact with each other everyday so very important. Yes, this is Easter Sunday. I carry no cross for the Roman Catholic Church, but a simple message, “Love thy neighbour” is the only truth we need to know. No further explanation required.
12th April, 2020