The Middle of the COVID Journey: A Call to Healthcare Workers

In any journey, the middle part of any journey is the toughest!

We see this in the middle of a long vacation drive with our kids, with any project implementation, and now also in our responses to the escalating COVID- 19 pandemic.

We took extreme precautions at the beginning of this pandemic in March as we were energized to act. However, we are now in the middle of this pandemic journey. As we plod through with COVID fatigue now setting in, the initial gusto and energy may have well dissipated. The ingenious virus continues to impact us, our colleagues, our communities, and ravage our country, and the planet at large. We hope, that the end may be near and we may see the light at the end of the tunnel when the vaccine are released and we continue to heed the guidelines on masking (COVID-19, Masking, Thomas Jefferson and the St. Lucian Parrot: A Common Thread) and social distancing.

The middle part of the journey, when the initial energy has long dissipated, and we are on a blind curve and cannot see the light on the other end clearly, is when we need to shore up our defenses in a mindful and intentional manner.

Dante, in 1492, in his classic, The Divine Comedy, iterated these same observations about the middle of the journey through a strange and eerie place. He emphasizes how Man must always be aware intellectually of his own need to perform righteous acts in a moral manner.

Dante’s Inferno: Canto I

In the middle of the journey of our life

I found myself astray in a dark wood

where the straight road had been lost sight of.

How hard it is to say what it was like

in the thick of thickets, in a wood so dense

and gnarled

the very thought of it renews my panic.

It is bitter almost as death itself is bitter.

But to rehearse the good it also brought me

I will speak about the other things I saw there.

How I got into it I cannot clearly say

for I was moving like a sleepwalker

the moment I stepped out of the right way,

But when I came to the bottom of a hill

standing off at the far end of that valley

where a great terror had disheartened me

I looked up, and saw how its shoulders glowed

already in the rays of the planet

which leads and keeps men straight on every road.

Then I sensed a quiet influence settling

into those depths in me that had been rocked

and pitifully troubled all night long

And as a survivor gasping on the sand

turns his head back to study in a daze

the dangerous combers, so my mind

Turned back, although it was reeling forward,

back to inspect a pass that had proved fatal

heretofore to everyone who entered.

https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/inferno/inferno-1/

So, as we traverse this middle of the journey, please heed that the journey will lead us in the end to a better and brighter future, though the future may be different from what we envisioned even a year ago.

Our healthcare institutions, one of the last bastion for our patients, are collectively involved in this heroic and epic battle against this ingenious virus. We cannot let the walls of our institutional fortress crumble when we are so near the end. We must hold steady and strong and provide the beacon of light for others.

When Archimedes (287-212 BC), the great Greek mathematician and engineer who knew a thing or two about building defenses against the mighty Romans, once remarked “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” In this epic COVID battle, we as healthcare workers, have been given the privilege and a place to take a stand. It is now upon us to move the world.

The actions of our medical brethrens in creating the vaccine in record time of six months is unprecedented, and revolutionary- knowing well that the shortest time to the last vaccine approval took over four years.(https://www.history.com/news/mumps-vaccine-world-war-ii).

So let us do our part and protect ourselves, our families, our colleagues, our patients, and our great institutions, by following all precautions (masking, social distancing, hand washing, reminding others to do the same) in this middle part of this epic journey!

It may be prudent, to take a default mode of everyone around me has COVID unless proven otherwise may give you a mindset to be careful over the coming holidays, when we interact with our colleagues at work, while eating our meals at work.

Once the vaccine is out our battles will surely shift to convincing the masses to take the vaccine which is another battle in itself.(https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/02/the-message-of-measles)

We know we will prevail, but, now, more than ever, is not the time to let our guards down!

Painting (oil)- Charron’s Crossing the River Styx: Joachim Patinir (1520): Prado Museum, Madrid

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