Thoughts of a covid patient
By Rev. Lyndan Syiem
I have experienced many illnesses and injuries in my life. But I never imagined that one day I would become a COVID 19 patient, one of the millions of sufferers in this present pandemic. That I can sit up and write two days after the RT-PCR test declared me Positive, when thousands are gasping for oxygen, is only because of divine grace. It also helped that I had my first dose of Covishield vaccination, which reduces the severity of the symptoms; plus the timely medical help and spiritual support from family, friends and fellow congregants. You cannot visit a COVID patient, but you can pray from afar, send encouraging messages on social media and make short, very short, phone calls.
In Meghalaya, there is oftentimes a veil of secrecy when someone in the family tests COVID Positive. As a pastor one cannot, and should not, hide from the flock; so I chose the path of full disclosure. To the extent of calling up everyone whom I had met in the past ten days, with appeals for self-isolation. It helped that I keep a diary of my daily ministry. If we truly want to defeat this virus, everyone who tests positive must immediately inform his past contacts. Unfortunately, this is not always possible as there is a social stigma attached to the disease, as in the case of leprosy, tuberculosis and AIDS. Attitudes cannot be changed overnight, so the next best thing is to accurately inform the health worker who does your contact tracing. In my case, the doctor and the Asha staff did an excellent job.
What are the thoughts of a COVID patient? It depends whether you are asymptomatic or not. In my experience, the asymptomatics will initially be relieved, but then pride often sets in, plus the feeling of invulnerability to this dreadful disease. This is a dangerous attitude, because it leads to carelessness and lack of responsibility towards others. … Those with severe symptoms can hardly think at all. Those of us with mild to moderate symptoms immediately think of our human frailty and mortality. Not death immediately, but it does enter the mind, especially with such graphic footage of COVID patients on television. Your thoughts lead to the hereafter: “Am I prepared to meet my Maker? What have I achieved in life? What is my legacy?”
Secondly, there is regret that one was not careful enough with mask, sanitizer and physical distancing. People will berate themselves for complacency and careless slips of the mask. They will review their activities over the past ten days and try to remember exactly whom they met, where they met. This thought then transitions to guilt and shame, because you may have unknowingly infected others with the virus. Guilt because you know very clearly your own culpability and shame because of what others might think of you. For most people, personal suffering can be endured, but the thought that one has inadvertently advanced the chain of transmission of disease is difficult to bear.
No decent, reasonable human being will deliberately cause death, but carelessness and negligence are enough for the virus to strike. That’s why the COVID patient eagerly awaits to hear, as I am right now, the results of the tests of his primary contacts, the high-risk contacts. If they yield negative, there is relief and gratitude to God. A positive result is distressing, especially if symptoms develop. A recurrent thought is the firm resolve to live a new, responsible lifestyle amidst this ongoing situation of pandemic. And of advocating such a lifestyle to others, as I have done through social media and am doing through this article.
The COVID patient’s thoughts then turn to the vaccine, it’s efficacy and the resistance of some people against it. Social media these days is awash with conspiracy theories about the vaccine: that it contains a microchip, that governments and MNCs have nefarious designs to control the population. No matter how many clarifications that the government publishes on newspapers and billboards, there will always be videos where some ‘scientist’ disputes all the established data on vaccines. What makes it worse is when some religious preacher quotes Scripture, claiming that the vaccine is the mark of the beast or some other exegetical monstrosity. To such, I quote this warning from James 3:1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
The thoughts of a COVID patient who has mild to moderate symptoms will often be interrupted by phone calls from well wishers and messages on social media. These are not a disturbance but a welcome relief from the routine of lying in bed, medicines, steam inhalation, breathing exercises and many other remedies. After their genuine good wishes, a few callers have mischievously asked me how I contracted COVID when I already had my first dose of Covishield! Rebuttal with facts and statistics is impossible to people who rely on anecdotal evidence. That’s when I point out that none of the hundreds who have been fully vaccinated at the Mawroh PHC have subsequently contracted COVID 19.
To the best of my knowledge, and at the point of writing this article, mine is the only case, and I have only had the first dose. The first dose certainly reduced the severity of my symptoms and I pray it has also reduced the transmissibility of the virus to others. The argument of anti-vaxxers who cite my case as a vaccine-fail is disproved by the literally hundreds of healthy senior and middle-aged citizens who were vaccinated with me at the Mawroh PHC.
Finally, what confuses the COVID patient’s thoughts is religious people who reject COVID protocols in the name of faith. I am not qualified to comment on other religions, but in my own there are some who claim: “If you really have faith, you don’t need masks in church.” That’s like Satan tempting Jesus to jump from the Temple roof, claiming that God’s angels will save him. To which Jesus answered, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Another claim is: “If you are a true believer, COVID will never enter your home.” Such ideas are not evidence of faith but of gross biblical illiteracy.
The Old Testament laws on health, hygiene and diet were given by God through Moses to a people wandering in the wilderness. The whole purpose was that the people of God should diligently guard themselves against disease and epidemics. It was precisely because epidemics had the capacity to enter the tents of Israel, that the books of Leviticus and Numbers prohibit people with contagious diseases and dubious bodily discharges from entering the camp. Am I saying that we revert to the Old Testament laws? Of course not. While the exact stipulations no longer apply to New Testament believers, the principle of keeping others healthy by keeping yourselves separate still applies. As such, masks, sanitizers and physical distancing are the present-day application of “going out of the camp.”
It can be somewhat embarrassing when your residence is officially declared a ‘Containment Zone.’ But one must sometimes accept “staying outside the camp” as the price for the overall health of society.
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