Mon | Dec 6, 2021

Arna J. Brown Morgan | A message to my patients: Get vaccinated

Published:Wednesday | March 17, 2021 | 12:13 AM
Dr Arna Brown Morgan
Dr Arna Brown Morgan
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Hi, it’s me again! Your average family doctor (multiplied hundreds of times)! I’m speaking to the thousands of patients I’ve seen in my lifetime. I thank you for your esteem and mostly warm feelings in your hearts when you think of me, and I ask...

Hi, it’s me again! Your average family doctor (multiplied hundreds of times)! I’m speaking to the thousands of patients I’ve seen in my lifetime. I thank you for your esteem and mostly warm feelings in your hearts when you think of me, and I ask you to listen to me now. I’m doctor, ‘grand doctor’, and even ‘great grand doctor’ to many, and you know I care for you! Not only physically, but mentally and spiritually.

Now, you know who you are. You called me at 9 p.m. last night. Your nephew was sitting in a hard chair, short of breath and coughing. COVID-positive, and waiting in a hospital tent since morning to see a doctor. You asked me if he should leave, and I told you to stay. The situation’s no better elsewhere! He was still unattended to yesterday morning. Please wait! Continue drinking the hot ginger tea and doing menthol crystal steam inhalations to soften the mucous plugs in the lungs. You just have to wait.

And yet another. Your call came this morning. You had to rush your sick, diabetic, short-of-breath and COVID-positive relative to the hospital just now and you’re concerned about your exposure. Should you do a COVID test? Well, it’s too soon for that. Give it a few days for the antigen PCR test, and don’t waste your funds on the rapid antigen test at this time, as it’s often negative unless you actually have COVID symptoms! Contact the Ministry of Health on one of the many straight lines. Stay home for now. But your boss won’t allow you to stay home, you say? What can I tell you? Try to work from home or work alone. Do your best! There’s a saying, “Do your best and let God’s angels do the rest”.

So my best medical friend is trying to manage numerous COVID-19 patients over the telephone. Sending for tests, reporting to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, writing prescriptions to be collected by relatives. We do the best we can, and often without pay. Multiply that by hundreds of GPs!

Listen, dear patients. COVID is in your community. It’s passing through your home or actually living there, just waiting. It’s at the bar, the bank, the supermarket, and it will become a part of you if you give it a chance. And the situation is much worse than the regular person realises! Many in our communities seem to have had it up to their ears with COVID-19 and COVID-19 messaging. They’re ignoring the entire issue, just hoping it will eventually pass and that it’ll spare them and their families. Well, it’s becoming pretty clear that it’s not going away! COVID doesn’t care, and enjoys your hesitancy, which allows it to flourish!

DISCUSS THE VIRUS WITH FAMILY

The distress over how to cope with COVID-19-positive friends and family members is only escalating, and it makes no sense being a ostrich and bury your long neck and head in the sand! Your buttock is surely going to get ‘whupped!’ Getting frustrated doesn’t help, either! It is time to sit your family members down for a family meeting and take the time to discuss the coronavirus as a family group.

Once again, and especially so to our younger family members who are students or recently in the workplace, reaffirm the basic COVID-19 prevention tools – mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing. Please push that back into our psyche! They just can’t be beaten and are ignored at the peril to our entire home. So many of us are becoming sick with the virus right now, so this is very important.

Dear patients, it isn’t asking all that much to protect your family members as well as yourselves. There is no new miracle message, just the same old adage burned into your psyche and being filed away as a nuisance. But it has worked! To the extent that people have actually masked up and social distanced, our communities and homes have benefited. You’ve helped to keep your family members and work colleagues alive and well! But we can all do better!

I advise and urge you to get vaccinated! Take the first vaccine that is World Health Organization-approved and is offered to you. We’ve all heard endless viewpoints debated over social media which have served to cause you to become fearful and immobilised. By now, millions of people all over the world have taken any vaccine we will get here in Jamaica. There will always be sad stories. Nothing is perfect! But these vaccines are saving multitudes of lives already. And I want you to be safe! Safe to get on with your lives freely and free from fear, even if we’ll wear masks until enough of the population gets immunised. I look forward to taking my own shot! I so long to feel safe in my office when someone coughs. To not worry when someone complains of a simple sinus headache or cold, not be fearful of the crowded lines in the supermarket! That is the definition of freedom in the age of COVID-19!

So what if you have to wear a mask for a while! I can recall when I didn’t wear a car seat belt! It wasn’t required. Times change and the necessary rules to coexist change, too. I can remember when there was no such item as a cell phone here in Jamaica! Life changes and if we can’t adapt, even for the short run, then you may not flourish. For the many who’ve had COVID-19, just imagine that within a few months you can get it again! What will that do to your system? How will the disease change your organs; your heart and lungs and vision and blood circulation? Your brain? We are learning about COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ and that story isn’t pretty.

A few facts do stand out about taking the AstraZeneca vaccine:

•It gives some immunity to most strains of the coronavirus;

•It gives good coverage against the original coronavirus strain and the English strain, which seems to be growing in the USA and is more contagious;

•Once taken, it seems to prevent serious COVID-19 illness generally. It is preventing the type of bad sickness which requires going to the hospital;

•It is preventing the spread of the virus from person to person.

Dear patients, I’m urging you to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes your way. Save and preserve yourself and your family for the future. How many Jamaican families were wiped out by the Spanish Flu 100 years ago? But this is the year 2021, and we have no excuse to allow COVID-19 illness and deaths to mount up, as they seem to be doing. Not when we have a vaccine which will work to protect us! If you have concerns, please check with your GP and family doctor.

Get protected. Feel safe again.

Arna J. Brown Morgan is a family physician.