José Saramago and his exceptional novel “Blindness” move us to a crude catastrophic situation where dehumanised behaviours are endured to survive. In the magnificent story, the only character that preserves vision is the wife of a doctor serving as the narrator, guide and protector of the community. The fiction was seen as a tough narrative to criticise the worse side of society and the human condition.
The coronavirus pandemic is putting the medical and scientific communities under strain but with evidence of controlled situations in countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore.
We as doctors are very good at reproducing what we have learned from our teachers and mentors on how to treat disease A in Patient B at hospital X. What is new this time is that we have to deal with a new disease on which we are still learning, that affects an unprecedented number of patients in hospitals that are on the verge of its capacities. We are however reinventing ourselves, building more hospitals, assembling medical facilities in hotels or congresses centres and strengthening our medical network to learn quickly to defeat the virus most efficiently.
I am thrilled on how clinicians over the globe are in permanent contact and exchanging their impressions on how to approach COVID-19. Protocols, guidelines, and new and promising trials are taking place to try to help us. But we also have fears to contract the disease or even worse to transmit it to our relatives.
In Spain, where I currently work, people from their imposed and necessary confinement at 20:00 h pm every single day, give us a 10 min applause to all Health-workers. They need to thank what we are doing and they want to think we will keep working until there are no new cases like has happened in China. We need to adapt to work differently, together with other specialists in our ICUs, reanimation units and emergency departments. Also dynamic and shorter shifts can mitigate emotional load and give us protection against the virus. Every day when hearing the daily applause I say to them we will surely keep going but only through true and patient-centred cooperation with other specialities, government and health institutions.
We need to be the ones who are not blind-like Saramago’s doctor wife and diagnose, treat and also alleviate suffering where cure is not possible for patients affected with this new disease.