Stay safe? Reality check…Thursday, March 11, 2021
The expression “Stay safe” bounces easily off the tongue of the average middle-class person when we close discussions these days. In saying it, I wonder how many people recognise the significance of the burden of care they have for themselves and others when this phrase is easily offered to another as a close-out greeting.
Many people treat the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID 19, as an influenza virus; some say “likkle flu”! But this is not the case. Yes, both are contagious respiratory illnesses that have resulted in pandemics, but COVID-19 is much more transmissible than the flu, and so it spreads faster.
While many people have been dying from COVID-19, many don't consider the resulting reduction in quality of life metrics and associated burden of care that will be visited upon them and their loved ones should they contract the disease and live. Do they understand the possibility of lung disease for life? Do they understand kidney failure and being on dialysis and support medication for life? Do they know that your blood can thicken, increasing the possibility of blood clots, which can get lodged in the lungs, or travel to heart or blood vessels in your brain, which may kill you? There are many in the hospitals now who are undergoing treatment for COVID-19 who require blood thinners, a medication whose use comes with their own significant set of risks.
We see pictures of people on oxygen seated in hospital corridors, the tanks right beside them; they are not able to get a bed and so they “cuss the Government”. Is it the Government's fault that they caught the disease, or was it the individual's personal choices of sanitation and social distance practices? How many of them frequently washed their hands, wore masks, and maintained appropriate social distance?
Still, I admit I must constantly remind myself, 'Put on your mask,' as I go out, while in a meeting, and especially with people I am quite comfortable around. But we all have to remember.
When we who understand and have conscience do what it takes to stay safe, we hear we 'fraid'! Indeed, some people say, “Unnu ah fool, caah Jamaica blessed. We ah get ova dis!” Have they heard the rasping breathing, observed the pain, and felt the fear as the COVID-19-infected people struggle to live? The answer is most likely no, because family and friends cannot conduct the usual welfare visits with those affected.
When we must stand in the long lines to access automated business machines (ABM) we cuss, but don't understand that we have brought ourselves here. Do a comparison with New Zealand and Australia, which have set rules and enforced them. Do they have the challenges we have now with over 800 testing positive recently in 24 hours?
We are proud to say “wi bad”, but not proud to say we protect ourselves and our families by following COVID-19 protocols. I write with this with a heavy heart, as I know that many people who have recovered or are recovering from COVID-19 never recognised the burden of care they now have for the rest of their lives.
When I had to do a colonoscopy due to fear of diverticulitis I was overburdened with fear in anticipation of the results. God forbid I have to handle kidney challenges for my lifetime.
I've served as a volunteer in the health system from 17 years of age and was struck by the effect of kidney disease on Ward 4 where I gave time. I've been on a corridor outside a dialysis centre waiting to pay for treatment for a friend only to hear he has succumbed at the University Hospital of the West Indies, even as I stood there in Spanish Town waiting to pay his bill for anticipated treatment. He wasn't yet 50 years old and was a brilliant mathematics teacher.
Having had to sign a do not resuscitate (DNR) order for two older relatives, my eldest aunt and my mother, and hold my youngest sister in my arms as she took her last breath, I understand the battle to live and the burden of care for family and health-care providers.
I believe we need to begin speaking to the long-term effects of COVID-19 and why we need to “stay safe”, social distance, wash hands, and wear our masks to take care of ourselves, our family, our community, and our country. We simply have to follow the protocols.
When I drive on a Red Hills Road or Molynes Road and swerve from taxis and buses with no mask-wearing drivers or passengers I understand why the numbers are on the rise.
Do the reality check, via TikToc, for example. Let those who have survived tell the story of their daily 'livity'. Share it and let it go viral like the 'squaddie' video.
“Stay safe” means to live well with yourself so you can take care of yourself, your family, and friends as needed. People need to begin to understand and fear COVID-19's many possible effects on their lives and those of their loved ones. Indubitably, living with the after-effects of COVID-19 needs to be further systematically explored.
Sharon Hay Webster, ORM, is a former Member of Parliament. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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