THE GLEANER, WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2021 | www.jamaica-gleaner.com | E4 WORLD FAMILY DOCTOR DAY FEATURE W HEN THE presence of COVID-19 was confirmed on the island, I was not overly concerned for my safety as a practitioner of family medicine. I was absolutely sure that I was safe. There was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I would never catch that virus, and that I would remain safe until I was fully vaccinated. I was confident because I felt that I had taken all possible measures to prevent exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I had done my research and put in place extremely rigorous screening procedure for the office, and in my personal life. I took no chances. Additionally, my wife and I did a lot of online grocery shopping. I never visited friends or relatives, and no one was allowed to visit me. We did everything humanly possible to remain safe. In late August 2020, I began experiencing an itchy throat. It progressed to very occasional dry coughing. I was 100 per cent certain that my symptoms were due to post- nasal drainage. In the mid-afternoon, I began feeling lousy and that rapidly progressed to severe, almost incapacitating malaise. Walking was difficult and I became curious, so I checked my body temperature. I was astonished to find that it was 38.6°C (101°F). Alarm bells went off in my head. I wondered what virus defeated all my precautions. I separated myself from my wife and called it in. I was tested the following day, but waiting four days for the result was torture. My fever persisted. I was coughing, but only intermittently. I was weak, wheezing a bit and felt tight-chested. I had headaches and retro-orbital pain. I perspired easily, but I ate properly, prayed and exercised. Hearing that I was COVID-positive was scary because I was 65 years old, male, plus-size, a controlled hypertensive asthmatic with a cardiac arrhythmia, severe sleep apnoea and upper airway resistance. I felt as if my chest was full of ice and my blood ran cold. My wife turned out to be COVID-negative and the staff was unaffected. I was away from work for three weeks, but the virus left me with chronic fatigue and brain fog. I abandoned all air-conditioners at work and opened up the windows to allow for ventilation. I have been wearing two masks and goggles, and I do more telemedicine out of an abundance of caution. I have no idea how or when I got the virus; now, I feel very susceptible because I must see most patients face to face. The large fan blowing outside air past me and towards the open office doorway offers some comfort, but the haunting feeling that my job places me in harm’s way is palpable. All I can do is practise stringent COVID-19 measures, get fully vaccinated, and hope that my fellow citizens will wake up, accept the vaccine, distance themselves from one another, sanitise their hands and wear their masks properly until this plague dies down. GARTH A. RATTRAY Family Physician My personal experience with COVID-19 Dr Garth Rattray; family physician. COVID-19 trepidations WHAT HAD seemed a distant occurrence in Wuhan, China, became a global contagion. Stay-at-home restrictions, social distancing, wearing masks, and curfews became the norm. How did patients respond to this reset of their lives? I share some examples. Patients were extremely anxious and fearful of the COVID-19 spectre. Such was middle-aged housewife, Anna (not her real name). Anna described a feeling of obstruction at her throat. She was not sleeping and reported being woken by palpitations in her chest. Her children, who were at home since schools closed, were driving her crazy. She broke down in tears of confusion and fear. She came to the medical practice almost daily during a four-week period. In some cases, patients became even more decompensated. Rob (not his real name) is an elderly retiree. Relatives brought him to my practice because he became boisterous, smashing items in the house. During our encounter, I found out he enjoyed spending the nights playing dominoes with other men his age. However, the stay-at-home restrictions and closure of bars had forced him to stay home. He responded with frustration and became agitated. I recommended once daily outings. After the first case was announced on March 12, 2020, persons with positive PCR COVID-19 tests were isolated under quarantine conditions. One of my patients, a young nail technician, was placed in quarantine. She was terrified. She called me daily to ventilate her apprehensions. She felt imprisoned. She complained about the living conditions, she hated the food, the staff were unkind, and so on. She worried about the stigma of COVID-19.Would her clients return? How would she earn a living? The unusual became the norm. An asthmatic young man requested sick leave fromwork for three months. He was feeling fine and had no symptoms. I was taken aback! However, he felt this was justified, since his asthma placed him at great risk. I encouraged him to take his medication, wear masks and sanitise. The next day the Government announced mandatory stay-at-home orders for persons with comorbidities such as asthma. He was now allowed to stay home. The events of the past 12 months have been unprecedented for patients and their family doctors. Together we face the COVID-19 pandemic. PAULINEWILLIAMS-GREEN Past President of CCFP Regional and CCFP Jamaica, Past Coordinator Family Medicine Program UWI COVID-19 reset Dr Pauline Williams Green, past president of CCFP Regional and CCFP Jamaica, past coordinator Family Medicine Program UWI.