The Viral Situation

Eyes half closed, I rose and staggered to the corner of the room where my handphone lay plugged into the wall.

Tinesh here. We’ve got a bit of a situation. “ said Dr Tinesh Sachirthanthan.

Grunting into the phone, I pulled on my work clothes, kissed my wife goodnight and gunned the engine of my little Honda.

The patient was an elderly family man in need of emergent surgery. While the intensive care team resuscitated him and prepared to wheel him into the OR, the rest of us suited up to receive him.

The last few weeks in Malaysia have seen COVID numbers spike, movement restrictions in Selangor and the Klang Valley, with the government pulling out nearly every stop in its attempt to check the wave of viral spread.

Yet it wasn’t until I was told that the patient I was called in to operate on could possibly be filled with the feared coronavirus, that it became personal.

Under the watchful eyes of Scrub Nurse Are Tul and the COVID OR staff, we strapped on 3M particle respirators that filled our helmets with cool air to combat the intense heat of the white Tyvek suits.

Passing through the air-lock doors, my heart skipped a beat. The OR was familiar, yet vaguely surreal, the beeps and dings drowned out by the constant rattle in the tube coming out of my headpiece, and the sound of my own breathing.

Then the patient was wheeled in, and the old battle routine kicked in. The steel surgical tools passed through my hands like old friends. And we danced.

Some time later we wiped down our respirators and ‘doffed’ our protective gear in the tiny room next to the OR, and I stripped off my clothes and stepped into the shower.

The cold water running down my face is something I usually take for granted, but today I felt running on my skin not just water, but the breath of the creator of the Universe.

There are scary moments in life, and this was one of them.

But something tells me that in every strange and mysterious moment, the shadow of the hand of God reveals itself.

If only for a moment.

Originally written on 31 October 2020 in Sungai Buloh Hospital, Selangor

Note: Some details have been changed to protect patient privacy.

Image credits : SN Mastura Salim