MANY are saying it is a feat that we reached the end of 2020 alive and well. We are the survivors, so they say.
It is true we are breathing, we beat the odds and that in two days we will reach the end of this most eventful year. But it is not an end because we continue to cope with the challenges of the pandemic and confront daily the fears of getting infected by the virus that causes Covid-19 or of losing one’s job or being separated from family. It’s hard to feel triumphant when you have those burdens.
There were thousands who did not make it. I lost a brother, and I can easily name at least 15 others who passed away this year — an aunt, a childhood friend, schoolmate, a friend’s parents, another friend’s brother, a colleague’s brother, a doctor’s father, two news sources etc. They did not all die of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), but our being in a pandemic somehow contributed to their death. Some of them refused to seek treatment or delayed going to the hospital because they were afraid they would catch the virus there. They didn’t make it to the end of 2020.
We did. We survived months of hard lockdown, loss of job or income, separation from family and friends, despair and anxiety over what will happen next. Does that make us feel we’re survivors? Not really.
There’s a group who truly are survivors in the medical sense because they battled the disease. It was a battle as they conquered the virus and overcame its effects on the body. To some of them, however, that part about surviving the disease is not yet over. Doctors call them the “long-haulers,” people who struggle to recover for weeks or months after they were discharged from the hospital and after they were told the virus can no longer be detected in their body.
For these “long-haulers,” leaving the hospital was just the start of their long road to recovery. They faced challenges of coping with breathlessness, fatigue, body pains and forgetfulness. They grapple with the “what ifs.” What if the scarring in my lung will make my shortness of breath permanent? What if the palpitations meant the virus affected my heart? Some continue to take a daily record of their temperature, heart rate and oxygen level. They worry they are not fully healed.
The same goes for those not infected by the virus but who have anxiety attacks and sleep disorders. Hard to feel it an achievement to reach this far.
But perhaps we should change our perspective and view the situation differently.
That we stop expecting we can go back to what and how we were health-wise and as a community, and admit we can never return to that time pre-pandemic. Instead, let us accept this for what it is and still find joy in what we do. Only then can we boldly proclaim that we are the survivors.