Opinion: I don't want to be a hero, I want to live

  • 28/03/2020

By Dr Sandhya Ramanathan

Opinion: No doctor wants to be a hero. They want to be just like you.

They want to be wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, grandparents, grandchildren, friends.

Doctors are worried. They are angry and scared and also resigned to their fate. They are preparing themselves for the worst, which is yet to come. They are watching with horror as they hear stories of young, previously fit colleagues from around the world, lying in ICUs fighting for their lives. Some have already lost the fight. They are dead.

What a tragic waste. A life spent in training to heal others, cruelly cut short while caring and treating others. Doctors are wondering if that will be their fate as well.

Many doctors are married to doctors, and the majority of their family and friends are also doctors. They are worried for all of them. They are worried for their children. Who will look after them? Should one of them step back from the front line? If they do, they know the strain on the health system will be even more, but what about their children? What about them?

They know they will fall sick not only from the virus, but from the relentless shifts they will have to work. They know they will have no choice but to keep on working. They all took an oath, you see? To always care and do no harm. What about the harm to themselves and their families? They didn't take that oath.

You see, doctors are risk analysts. Each and every decision they make is based on a risk versus benefit assessment. They know what the stakes are here. They have never been higher. They are realists, not pessimists. They are hoping against hope they and their loved ones will survive unscathed.

The thing is, they will be scathed. No matter what. It is the nature of this beast that has been unleashed on the world. Yet they put on a brave optimistic face every day so that their patients keep their faith that they will get better. And most of them do. But what about them?

So if you think doctors are heroes, you are correct - they are. But guess what? They don't want to be. For them, you are the heroes - the ones that are doing everything in their power to stop the spread of this horrible virus by the simple act of staying home.

Please, I humbly request to you as one of those doctors, nothing on your agenda today, tomorrow or the next day and the day after that is more important than the lives of those around you.

However, have faith this too shall pass. Together, by looking after each other, we can all weather this storm. So please, be a hero. Stay at home. Together we can fight this.

Dr Sandhya Ramanathan is a general practitioner in Auckland.