Disease, Death and Distance

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On May 24, 2020,  a sunny morning, I was enjoying my cup of hot beverage with my family. We were talking among ourselves of the increasing number of infected cases and death tolls, nationally and internationally all the while, discussing what to eat for snacks trying to forget it at the same time.

In the midst of the conversation, suddenly, we heard a loud cry. We rushed to the balcony to identify the source. It was a female voice , a familiar one  which continued for a few more minutes. It was coming from a house in the neighborhood which belonged to a couple in their forties, with school-going son and daughter.

A lot of people had already gathered and later, we came to know that an Uncle from the family who was working in the United States had passed away. As unimaginably difficult it had surely been for the family, it also struck a cord inside all of us who knew their hardships, listened to their stories and talked to their children.

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It reminded me of another story I came to know of a month ago, from my sister who works at Medical Centre , United States. It was about an aged couple staying away from their children and grandchildren, in an old age home.

At the time, the man was battling with an unknown and yet to be diagnosed severe respiratory illness and his general condition was rapidly deteriorating. Everyone including him knew the inevitable. He mentioned his last wish was to see his wife, but before reaching her, he died.

These are not the only stories. Nor are these the only people who have faced their end, without getting a chance to bid farewell to their loved ones. This pandemic has prevented family and friends from saying goodbye to their deceased, let alone perform the last rites per person’s wish. There are hundreds of such scenarios happening but only a few of them reach our screens and ears.  

Death is the universal and certain truth and still, it is the hardest thing to accept. Even in medical school, we learn to cure or manage diseases, prolong life, and prevent death but rarely to accept it ,work through it and think beyond it.

But how can one come in terms with this kind of mortality? How can one accept this truth when we know it can be any one of our realities any day?

We can all see the connect in both these stories. Distance was different, but both were long enough to matter. Death was different, but both were unsettling and unresolved. Disease was probably the same which happened to be the determining factor here. At this moment, death ,disease and distance have brought fears and tears to every family ,who has a member out of nation or home.

It is hard to stay strong and positive when stories and scores create a different picture. It is hard to say to ourselves that it will pass when we are afraid of how exactly it will. 

But it is less hard when we stay together and talk to each other with vulnerability and honesty. Before trying to accept the heavy situation, maybe it is time to accept people from different professions, communities and nations, starting first , from our near ones.

It is time for health professionals to emphasize on mental health along with the physical well being of people and themselves. It is time to let each other know that we are there for each other emotionally in the face of all fears and uncertainty

 Because this pandemic has turned us from being social animals to social animals in social distancing.

Because in the end, the worse fear for humankind than dying might just be , dying alone.

Priya Shrestha

Medical Student

BPKIHS Dharan

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