A poignant image that has been making its rounds on Twitter is that of medical officer Dr Timothy Lau, who is currently stationed as an emergency and trauma speciality trainee under the Master’s Programme at the Fellowship of Royal College of Emergency Medicine UK (FRCEM UK). He recently shared a story of a mothers words to her son, moments before she’s intubated. Fly Fm has since reached out to him, in the hopes that sharing his story will create awareness of how important it is that we continue the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia. This is a story from a Malaysian on the frontlines.
Working in the Emergency department requires tenacity and mental fortitude. Each day, it’s as if you are sitting on a roller coaster and going around the track again, and again, and again. But, when you go a few rounds on the same roller coaster, you know what to expect after a round or two. Our days on the frontlines are as if we are sitting through endless rounds on the roller coaster – but each round is different; with different speeds, bends, highs, lows. You never know what’s around the corner – especially when the need for care outweighs the number of personnel who can provide that care.
Today, I will tell you the story of a COVID patient I was about to intubate.
For this particular COVID patient, her blood readings and X-ray findings showed that her lungs were failing to provide enough oxygen for her body to function optimally. However, at that point, she still reported feeling relatively well – this is a condition termed “silent hypoxemia.” I knew that her condition would be temporary before her lungs would give up. In a last-ditch effort to assist the ailing lung, I had to intubate her.
I always gave my patient time to call their loved ones and I insist on them calling someone.
Intubation aims to provide the optimum level of oxygen that the patient needs. The patient is sedated from the beginning of the procedure, through the treatment and only taken off it when they show improvements.
Unfortunately, some patients might not wake up after intubation – this depends on if their condition further deteriorates or if there are other complications as a result of prolonged stay.
With that being said, I try to give my patients space and opportunity to say what they need to say.
There is always someone to speak to. This time this old lady called up her son and said…
“Mummy doesn’t blame you for bringing covid home. Don’t blame yourself if mummy doesn’t wake up.”
Her words hit me hard. I lost a loved one at a young age… and the feeling of helplessness that I had felt at that moment made me want to be the hope of someone out there, one person at a time.
And so I held her hand and said, “We will take care of you.”
Being in the medical line during the pandemic can sometimes feel as if our efforts are like drops of water in an ocean, but in reality, every effort is a drop of water added to a garden because that’s one more person who is shown compassion in their time of need.
It is common for people to see the reported daily “death toll” as just numbers because they aren’t directly affected by the loss of life.
These “numbers” are our fellow Malaysians – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters. But they don’t encompass everyone who is affected by the virus. As people who see the effect of COVID daily, we see COVID’s toll on the human body and on those who don’t contract the virus. It’s often forgotten how COVID affect patients with other medical conditions, who also require medical care and support. COVID indirectly causes harm to other patients as well.
The spirit of Dr Timothy and the team at the Emergency Department had not yet been tested as it has been during the pandemic, but knowing that all healthcare workers are united in this fight keeps that spirit alive, as they treat all patients without reservations.
This story is an important nudge to everyone to do their part in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It may sound like a monumental task when you see the words “pandemic”, “frontline” and “battle” put together but as Timothy has shared, this can be done “one person at a time”, in little steps. Do this by:
• Staying at home.
Yes – you’ve heard it a million times – but there is still a need to repeat the message. If you’re not sick right now, avoid getting sick by staying home. Not to mention the fact that if you are sick and don’t know it yet (asymptomatic, perhaps), the best way to reduce the risk of spreading it is to stay home.
• Share gratitude, love and happiness.
When physical touch, face-to-face interaction, and freedom of movement is restricted, our mental health takes hits. Despite being more connected than ever with the internet and technology, more and more people are reported to be feeling lonely, isolated and anxious.
It doesn’t help that face masks often mask our smiles, the most obvious indicator of friendliness and warmth. Help reduce this feeling by saying a simple “thank you”, sharing funny and feel-good content on social media, responding to posts and stories with positivity or by even adding that “?” to the end of your message to your driver/delivery man. Encouragement from others can go a long way and every effort counts.
At present, registration for the opt-in programme for the AstraZeneca vaccination is open to all residents of Johor, Penang, Sarawak, Selangor and W.P. Kuala Lumpur above the age of 60. Registration can be done via the MySejahtera app as well as through the website (the website has English, Bahasa, Mandarin and Tamil options).
*Cover image credits: Dr Timothy
*Disclaimer: Dr Timothy's story is a personal one and does not reflect the opinions of KKM.