COVID19: From My Heart To Yours – By Uzoma Chukwuocha

March 24, 2020

 About a week ago I
returned back to the United States after a short trip to Nigeria through
London, and in the next day or two I will be stepping back into the front lines.
Into the minefields of this battle with COVID 19; uncharted territories with no
reference points regarding what to expect or what the outcome may be for the
patient or the doctor/caregiver. I’m a Physician, I took an oath to do this, to
put the patient first.

I am writing this piece not out of fear, but mostly out of
the need for posterity and historical delineation of facts, events, feelings
and opinions. The knowledge that you might not get another chance to put your
thoughts out there makes it necessary that you do so in a concise and timely
manner. I have a beautiful family, my wife and three lovely girls that I love
more than life itself. I know that by extension I might be putting them in
harm’s way, hence I will do all in my power to be diligent in my work to save
and protect my patients, myself, my coworkers and by extension my family.

On my recent trip to Nigeria, I had teamed up with another
Doctor friend of mine to hold a free medical outreach in a rural community in
Imo State through our personal NGOs (The Lean Perspective Inc, and Dabroyal
Foundation). We attended to more than 120 patients with varied complaints. They
received free BP checks, blood sugar checks, medications and referrals, but
most importantly one-on-one health education. Hand washing/personal hygiene was
front and center of most of the health talk we gave. At the time of this event,
Nigeria was only recording two cases of the COVID 19. It was largely being seen
as Oyibo pipul wahalah (whiteman’s problem). Today we are counting about 30
cases in all and there is a palpable fear of an imminent surge in number of
cases, with possible fatalities in tow. There are more than 300,000 cases the
world over, with about 14,000 fatalities. China and Italy have taken the worst
hits, as the world races to find a cure, a vaccine or any mitigating scientific

As this virus ravages the globe, it has a partner riding
shotgun; fear. Some unintended untoward but completely avoidable outcomes may
result from fear. Ranging from wrong medication use, unorthodox remedies that
might be harmful, depression from social isolation, to xenophobia and political
mudslinging, it is almost turning out like a sociocultural autoimmune disease
where we end up hurting ourselves way more than the virus would or could have.
People are proffering remedies that have not been put through scientific tests.
Asians are being singled out for social scorn even as they suffer like the rest
of us. In Nigeria, angst is being directed at people (foreign or indigenous)
returning from overseas, be they symptomatic or not.

Granted, there was a case of a recent returnee in Nigeria
who had attended a social event and was later showing symptoms but refused to
alert the authorities as directed. He has since been tested and hopefully is in
some form of quarantine or isolation pending test results. This should not
warrant a mob judgement of all returnees who might be dealing with a lot more
than the fear of the virus. Some of them left young families behind and are
struggling to travel back to be reunited with them. Some of them are hourly
workers whose families depend on their income (which is suspended while they
fight through the travel bans to return home to them), they could use a bit of
empathy (if compassion is too dear to ask for). Americans could do a bit better
than calling the Virus Chinese. We are all victims here. Beating up innocent
Asians or Asian Americans will not in any way help in alleviating the burden of
this pandemic. We would go farther by recognizing our common traits instead of
our superficial differences.

While we adopt all the recommended precautions and practise
Social Distancing, I suggest we reach out to one another with our hearts. This
way we can hug without touching. When (and not if) this battle is over, we will
look at the scars and remember that in the face of  a global threat to humanity we were able to
find a deeper connection and commonality. The leadership that pulls us together
should be the one that starts within us. Let us take our gazes away from the
Rocks, Mountains and the Hills, away from Pennsylvania Avenue or Aso Rock, let
us look within and find the light so we can guide one another, let us hum a
tune of love so that even those that cannot see could hear us and know we are
there for them. Let us work together as we walk together out of this dark

Written by Uzoma Chukwuocha.

A freelance writer for TELL Magazine.

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