HEALTH workers do not just contend with the real fear of being infected, as many of them had and died, but also of the coronavirus’ emotional and mental assaults. They are in the trenches of this war littered with blood and gore.
Dr. Lorna Breen, head of emergency services at a Manhattan hospital hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, could not take it any longer and committed suicide. Her father, Dr. Philip Breen, said she had been distraught by patients dying one by one “even as they were being taken out of ambulances.”
In a statement, the New York Presbyterian /Columbia Hospital lauded her heroic and selfless dedication. “Dr. Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department.”
No one is trained to come face-to-face with death and, in the case of doctors and nurses, with the personal failure to save people from it.
The Department of Health and the various psychiatric and psychological foundations should immediately undertake psycho-social counselling for our health workers.
Even the most hardened US soldiers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria were overwhelmed with rampant death, mayhem and destruction. The US Veterans Hospital in Manila has been treating many of them suffering from PTSD.
A noted Filipino psychiatrist has documented an alarming number of suicides among those sent home after confinement here but this remains undisclosed by Pentagon and US Embassy officials.
This is a moving testament on how danger creates a deep bond between strangers. Nurse Taylor Campbelll of the Metropolitan Hospital in Virginia narrated a week ago: “Today was a beautiful day. My intubated patient who has been squeezing my hand for the last several days finally was strong enough to get extubated. This morning I gave her medications and when I told her I was leaving the room she shook her head. When I asked if she wanted me to stay she nodded.
“When it was time to extubate her she squeezed my hand the entire hour. We successfully extubated her and placed her on BIPAP. After a few minutes she mouthed her first words to me — I love you. My heart exploded and I started to sob in the room. Tears were running into my N95 mask as I stood there and held her hand. It was a beautiful moment. She repeated the words again, this time stronger. She was my patient for 15 days. And she had been vented the entire period. She wanted me in the room constantly to hold her hand and I have been spending a lot of time in there.”
Doctors and nurses have assumed another life in treating COVID-19 patients — a second family. No doubt, similar stories like Campbell’s abound in the ICUS and emergency rooms in our country’s hospitals. Occasions like these allow our sense of stifled humanity to overcome us — our pity, compassion, kindness and courage bursting forth like torrents of a heavy rain breaking at long last the barriers of complacency, fear and indifference.
Jesus Christ chose to be man so that we could also see and bring the light not from this world, but from Him. The nearly unhindered love and sacrifice that our frontliners amazingly exhibit can only come because of the living truth that God created them and the rest of us, in His glorious, victorious and undying image.