Heroes in Masks: Valiant Medical Professionals By Medina Salihu
‘If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks”. These words from the Hippocratic Oath suggests that saving a life should be an opportunity celebrated by every doctor. But what the oath doesn’t capture is what doctors should do in the face of the option of paying the ultimate price for their patients.
On the other hand, maybe most didn’t envision that a day would come in our generation when medical personnel would also face the risk of both contracting and dying from a virus they were treating. Oh we now know better, medicine has shown us a new side that leaves us further in awe of the commitment of those entrusted with the sacred task of preserving lives amidst the global pandemic which started in Wuhan, China.
Surely it must have seemed like business as usual in the medical centres across China’s Wuhan city in early December 2019, when the Corona Virus first struck. In just about a month the hospitals were already overwhelmed, the virus was yet to be understood so medical personnel were becoming patients themselves as fast as patients were being admitted. In three months over 3000 medical personnel in China alone were infected.
It was like war and doctors were racing to the frontlines from all around the world to help manage the situation. Armed with, their masks, suits and the knowledge of their field, they took on this enemy threatening the entire human race.
We saw medical personnel brace themselves up as commanders, leading the governments of the world, the Economists and even world armies. But it was not long before the world realized that it was a battle we were losing and our commanders were falling. We were beginning to run an even bigger risk, losing those who knew how to fight, but this did not deter them, they had sworn an oath, one that bound their hearts to fight.
Even as they fight without the right weapon against this virus, they continue to do all they can to preserve lives. As the Hippocratic Oath again says…
“I will prevent disease whenever I can for prevention is preferable to cure”.
This is what doctors across the world are resorting to as a limited solution, but not without the price of casualties. They are the casualties, medical personnel in the front line who paid with their lives.
We will never forget these men and women who fought and continue to fight this battle. We remember 34-year-old Li Weng Liang, China’s whistleblower doctor who first called the attention of the world to the coronavirus, but later died of the same virus, leaving behind a child and a pregnant wife. We remember 29-year-old PengYihua who after stopping his proposed wedding to attend to several patients, also died leaving behind family and his fiancé.
The story of 51-year-old Liu Zhiming the deputy secretary and dean of Wuhan Wuchang hospital will be told in Wuhan China for years to come. Most heart wrenching was the sight of his wife CaiLiping a nurse, screaming and running after the ambulance as his body was moved out of the hospital. The retired 67-year-old doctor, Jean-Jacques Razafindranazy of France who died after coming back to the emergency ward to help his colleagues who were overwhelmed, will not be forgotten in a hurry.
As we continue to consider the effect of the coronavirus in the medical field, the thought of the fate that has met with these valiant doctors across the world sends a chill down my spine to think of what awaits our medical personnel in this side of the world. What would be the fate of doctors in this clime where necessary equipment is scarce, where the same doctors who preserve life are left to suffer, and forced to embark on a strike to demand what is due them in wages.
I must say that the next few weeks and months that follow the coronavirus hitting Nigeria doesn’t look its best for our medical personnel. Hospital staff will most likely be left under-protected, overworked and increasingly vulnerable, even as the frightened public and confused government look to them for a solution.
So dear medical personnel, yes the road ahead looks tough, and the work before you right now is one I do not covet, still, I must say that I honour and respect you as a hero of our time. A hero wearing a mask and protective gear, one who stands in front as a shield, fighting to protect a generation. I see you as a luminary that will be a reference point for generations to come, and though this may seem vague, I stand in solidarity with you.
For as the popular saying by Williams Shakespeare goes, cowards die many times before their death; the valiant never taste of death but once. As much as I do not wish death upon you, I encourage you to be valiant in these times, for it will be your name written in the sands of time. For those who live through this, may this battle be one you fought from conscience, not for gain, but country, for humanity and God. Take necessary precautions comrade, fight to live as you do fight to save.