Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Garth Rattray | Big up our everyday heroes

Published:Monday | October 19, 2020 | 7:23 AM
A passenger being processed by COVID-19 healthcare personnel in the immigration hall of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St James.
A passenger being processed by COVID-19 healthcare personnel in the immigration hall of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St James.

It’s National Heroes Day and several people are being acknowledged for their contribution to society, for their inspirational activities and for their heroism. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have many everyday heroes that go unnoticed and unacknowledged.

Fearlessness and bravery are opposites. A fearless individual is not aware of danger and acts because he/she feels no fear. A brave person is fully aware of danger but acts in spite of fear. This pandemic is proving to be a frightening experience for our nation. The people who provide healthcare and the first responders are the most exposed to the possibility of becoming infected, yet they act in spite of their fear in order to help those in need.

Many are taking care of known COVID-19 patients who are moderately ill and hospitalised or who are severely ill and in critical care units. The porters, technicians, therapists, nurses and doctors must come into very close contact with these patients in order to care for them and (hopefully) save their lives. Private medical personnel who see patients for reasons other than COVID-19 are also at significant risk because many infected people are totally asymptomatic but must be examined or handled by those in the medical field.

Even when the patient and medical professional are properly attired in appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), prolonged proximity lends itself to the virus passing from one to the other. Even when there is no coughing, sneezing, laughing, shouting, or talking, breathing out can send aerosolised COVID-19 viruses into the air; they can hang around for an indeterminate time and perhaps be inhaled or deposit themselves on to the eyes. This virus is extremely infectious and virulent. A physician working with infected patients for many months remarked, “The only thing predictable about COVID-19 is that it is unpredictable”. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is capable of causing severe, sometimes lethal damage to the lungs, kidneys, brain, blood vessels, heart and limbs. In fact, it can cause severe inflammation to our entire vascular system. It can leave recovered patients with debilitating long-term symptoms, like prolonged fatigue, brain fog, lung scarring, heart arrhythmias, heart attacks, heart failure and kidney malfunction. Some of these problems can turn up in recovered patients who were either asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic.

SUPERHEROES

With those facts always in mind, medical personnel are fully aware that seeing sick people could lead to repeated infections by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and that the infection may be mild, moderate or severe and could kill them. It could also cause them to inadvertently infect their loved ones, who could die. As one doctor stated during a recent webinar, “Healthcare workers are superheroes”. It is scary to know what can befall us when we try to help the sick and still do our jobs as best that we can in such an atmosphere.

As this pandemic continues, more and more healthcare workers are becoming infected and some are dying as a direct result of COVID-19. The affected run the gamut of healthcare professionals and ancillary staff. Even as their colleagues and workmates fall ill and some succumb, the rest must continue for the greater good of everyone.

Our security forces, especially our policemen and policewomen, also deserve special praise for their work during these times. They must continue interacting with the public, sometimes under very trying circumstances. These everyday heroes fight crime and COVID-19 every time they go on duty. Our paramedics and ambulance drivers deserve a special recognition. Some of our taxi drivers are ‘emergency workers’ because they are the only emergency vehicles for most Jamaicans in times of crisis. We must not forget our intrepid sanitation workers.

I hope that someone of influence takes the time out today to acknowledge the work and sacrifice of our everyday heroes.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.