Arna Brown Morgan | Battling high anxiety levels – a family physician’s daily challenges with COVID-19
I am getting ready for work and I am experiencing another anxious moment. I’m a female family doctor in private GP medical practice for over 35 years and I have been going to work every day since COVID-19 hit Jamaica. I am no youngster, but I won’t break my work ethics either; I have rarely taken a sick day in my working life.
The fact of the matter is, today the COVID-19 positivity rate is over 36 per cent, this is high; and recently, the positivity rate has remained quite high. How is this affecting how I work and how I interact with the general public, my patients and my family is worth pausing to examine.
My baseline anxiety levels remain high as I hear every week of friends, colleagues and icons being tested COVID-1- positive, even dying. I have a friend and colleague who recently tested positive for COVID-19; she and her entire family and I think, “Dear God, what if that’s me? “ With the community spread occurring at such a high rate, one in four persons that I see in my office will possibly be COVID-19-positive. How do I prepare for this? What if I’m infected without symptoms? Or I am possibly handing COVID-19 infection to my patients with their prescriptions?
This is truly enough to make me seriously consider staying home; but I still press on.
On my visit to the bank, supermarket, pharmacy, gas station or wherever I go, I have become a one-man guardian of the people, or at least that’s how I see it, even as those same individuals look at me as if something is very wrong with me. I call on the guard at the bank to ask a young man near me to please put on his mask – the man plays a game with me – as soon as the guard leaves he pulls off his mask and smirks at me, daring me to do my worst. This occurred three times, so when I ask the guard to kindly ask the man to go outside, a bystander shouts, “Why you don’t stop harassing the guard.” Oops! Now I am the bad person – and this happens everywhere I go.
Will this situation exist this week? Or will I see signs of people getting the ‘wear a mask’ message. Well, I am heading out.
At the office, patients pull down their masks to speak with me when they sit down. I have to politely ask them, “Please keep your mask on”. Then masks slip down as patients speak or hang down a bit because the elastic on their mask has stretched out and needs to be replaced. Someone who says she has no cough sits with me at my desk and starts a coughing fit.
She’s a known asthmatic, so I hope I am okay, but this is scary, I recall that another colleague contracted COVID-19 from a coughing asthmatic patient. I immediately call the nurse to open all doors and windows, and to kindly supply this patient with a proper fitted mask, but will I be okay?
IS THIS ENOUGH?
Yes, I am taking my daily omega-3, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D3 and vitamin C and drinking my fever grass tea. I’m exercising as much as I can. What more can I do? I am wearing an N95 mask with a face shield, I have on a jacket, and I keep on sanitising and cleaning all surfaces after each patients is seen, but is this enough?
It’s all that I can do. That, and share these thoughts which I agonise over daily with all who read them. Because the ultimate safety rests with the Government and our health ministry doing all they can and taking all measures necessary to plateau this 90-degree spike, which is taking out the rich and poor alike.
In the meantime, I worry about a colleague fighting the COVID-19 infection in hospital for quite a while now. I worry about taking COVID-19 infection home to a husband who already has multiple co-morbidities.
I leave my shoes at the door, sanitise my hands and head for the shower ... what more can I do?
Dr Arna Brown Morgan is a family physician, regional treasurer of Caribbean College of Family Physicians and past associate lecturer in the family medicine programme at The University of the West Indies. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.