As I think about a COVID-19 normal world, I am planning to visit family in India, which has been long overdue.
The second wave in India was so intense, almost everyone in my family contracted the virus, many were hospitalised, and two passed away.
Throughout this period, the discussion between friends and family was consumed with concerns for our loved ones. Phones were constantly ringing. We were looking for medical supplies, beds and even cremation facilities as they were hard to find.
It was distressing to be so far away.
Things are looking much better in India, though there are concerns about a third wave with the new variant. I am really looking forward to going back to connect with loved ones.
While Melbourne has achieved the dubious distinction of the most locked down city in the world, and admittedly we have all struggled, I believe we are very lucky to live here. We have had relatively few deaths and our vaccination numbers are high. I find it hard when I come across people who dismiss the impact of the pandemic, even after I have shared my personal stories.
Generally, we would not disclose personal information during consultations, but COVID-19 has been one instance where patients have enquired about us, and our families, and the sharing of some stories have been a benefit to everyone, and a great equalizer.
One of the silver linings for the community has been the wide roll-out of telehealth which is now being made permanent. It has transformed healthcare in a significant way with numerous benefits.
There are limitations and our approach will have to adapt to them. For example, on occasion, all I see is a patient’s face, so it is difficult to ascertain what physical state they might be in. Do they have side effects such as tremors or weight gain from the medications? Where I would once observe the subtleties, I now have to use different skills. Some telehealth etiquettes need to be established so that the consultations don’t occur when people are driving around or sitting in a toilet!
The other silver lining, for me personally, was the birth of my son a couple of days before our first lockdown. At first, I was concerned about the impact of being born into lockdown, but soon realised what a remarkable bonding opportunity I had, thanks to the lockdowns!!!
As he starts exploring the new normal we live in, and we all start celebrating the Christmas spirit, welcoming a New Year, I hope you can reflect on this year, and also see the silver linings.
Dr Basanth Kenchaiah