So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (My safe space)

10. My safe space

I met my bf on summer of 2019, that year of Corona. And although distance and emotional turbulence rocked the boats of many relationships, we feel it has strengthened us.

He has been comfort pillow for me throughout the endeavours and although he had his own host of situations like being without a job for a length of time, he has never let the situation get the better of us.

We are close now. To the extent that our conversation once went like this, word for word
Babe I was so constipated this morning. But I knew if I take this dump it will most certainly obliterate my a-hole completely so I didn’t think it was worth it…

As a medical personnel, we are used to asking funny questions. One time I asked my patient, who had a major bowel surgery 3 days ago whether she had passed any wind from bottom yet. She replied ‘oh that’s an awkard question isn’t it? But if it pleases you to know, I did have a little whiff this morning’. And as you can imagine, we are used to funny answers. I had to explain to her, ‘farting’ basically meant her bowel has started to work, is propelling the gas down the colon therefore is a good news to us. But, trust me it doesn’t mean we are readily ready for conversations like ‘a dump obliterating a-hole’ always.

He is my support bubble. Having atleast one individual to hug sometimes in this mayhem really does miracles. ‘Come here to your safe space’ he said to me yesterday hugging me tightly, seeing me distressed reading a comment from a man whose mixed race daughter, had to cover her face everytime they went for a walk in the neighbourhood. ‘You know, I have some colleagues and friends who are mixed race with half an asian heritage.’ I said. ‘And physically they look more asian. May be more fair skin tone, lighter hair, lighter/different colour of eyes but still with dominantly asian features. I fear our children will be same, half English-half Nepalaese; and with all this happening. I’m worried about even bringing them to this world’. He sighed. ‘I’m sorry baby’ he said. ‘We just have to believe it’ll be a better world then.’

It was not his fault. He didn’t need to apologise. But that is the man, he is. It makes me appreciate and admire him more. He has always treated me with so much respect, attention and affection. When I am too tired to take the trains or can’t find one on my off dates, he drives all the way through the Wales and to the cities, almost 2 hr long car journey to reach me. And that’s just 1 way. And everytime we drive across the Severn bridge to come back to my place, back to my work, my heart dims a little, missing a sense of familiarity that was almost as cozy as home I grew in.

We learn everyday of our differences. And although by human nature, people do tend to look for similarities in their partners in terms of looks, socioeconomic/racial background we feel in these dissimilarities we have, we are building a strong foundation.

I wanted to see his family this Christmas for holiday celebrations. We decided it was best not to. I’m a high risk to them, because of my hospital working environment. And I wouldn’t want to be a cause of an illness. I haven’t even seen my parents for ages.

I have dated women from more than 19 countries’ stated a charming young man I went on a date at the start of that year. I remember feeling like a checklist of a world’s country map when he said that. ‘Unique’ he described me, trying to reeling me in with his  blue eyes. Curling my hair, I sat in front of my mirror for a long hour that day storming in my head whether I should be going on this different date… Surely I didn’t want to be with someone who had been collecting stamps from the globe. ‘Take a chance’ Said my friend, ‘you never really know’.

And I did. Showing up an hour and half late on a date, waving my hand across the road to a 6’2 feet tall man with a set of pearly eyes, curly hair and an infectious grin that extended up all the way near to both his ears…
I have never looked back again.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Thank you)

9. Thank you!

Lockdown has made me fat. 

I have put on 4 kgs since the beginning of Corona. But that’s not the issue. Issue is my jeans don’t fit and I have a pear shaped body! Should I blame this to ‘Indoor gyms and sports facilities being closed?’ , ‘stress eating’ Or the ‘provision of one free meal per day’ given by the hospital, which I did really appreciate. Because, at the time of first wave, it was scary how shelves in the supermarkets were all empty. By the time I reached the store, people had swiped away all the breads, canned foods, eggs and even toilet papers; trying to stock as much as they can and prepare themselves for the worst. I thought I’d starve. 

This habit of rationing is not unknown to me. I have grown up in a country where political situation was never stable. You didnot know where and when there’d be gunfire’s between the government and the Maoist. The year was 2000. 6 years of constant bombardments on news of people dying, government announcing people to stay safe, parents reminding children everyday never to pick any random toys on the road and army men walking around local areas for community checks…

That too was a period of starvation and shortage of supply. Mainly of salt, sugar and oil; which Nepal depends on the imports. A pack of salt at the time cost us 50 rupees which otherwise would have been just 10.

My uncle used to say, ‘If only Nepalese brains were not constantly thinking about, what is load shedding schedule today, which pump station is giving out petrol, when is the next lock down happening, where do I get my ration for rice, when is Melamchi’s drinking water getting to our households? Etc. We’d be a whole new breed of people with innovative ideas.’ I think it is true. 

UK relies heavily on EU and overseas for import of fresh food. 

It is inevitable if the lockdown continues ‘panic buying’ will toss again the fine balance of demand versus supply in the  local supermarkets. Our farmers will not be able to supply for  66.8 million  population. Lets just hope the Government is smart enough to pick on that and take urgent actions.

BY now, you’ve probably guessed, my diet is mainly rice and noodle based. Naturally they were the first things to disappear being categorised as ‘long term storage foods’. So you can only imagine the happiness I felt, when a packet of 10kg appeared on my doorstep. Maybe someday it won’t make any sense, why in the world was I almost crying to receive it? For now, it absolutely does. After a long day of stress and emotional rollercoaster at work, all I ask for is  proper home meal. ‘Rice and Curry’, that’s it.

Funny thing is, that bag of rice was also ‘a clear message of genuine kindness and declaration of affection from my boyfriend’, in so many ways. Call me weird,  I regard it as the best showcase of romantic gesture I have ever received or will ever receive from anybody. 

Anyways  back to the story. During the first wave, we were working more and erratic shifts. Changing continuously between the days and the nights. We still do. But it is more friendly hours now. Those more and erratic shifts meant, we didn’t have time to stand in a long queue outside a supermarket and even if we did manage to have, we were too tired to make the effort. Thankfully, at the right time,a lot of superstores reached out to us and gave us priority slots. Tesco- had dedicated an hour every Tuesday and Thursday. Sainsbury’s between 7:30 and 8 am Monday to Saturday. And so did others.

It helped a lot. 

Especially those of us, who didn’t drive and had a lot of other commitments to spare a travelling time to gather food.  We are thankful whole heartedly to people and to those organisations and companies for taking care of us in times of need.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Don’t be lured)

7. Don’t be lured

I have been buying lottery tickets. I have somehow managed to get my boyfriend to play ‘spin the wheel’ and ‘the slot machine’ in the internet. The max I’m betting is 50p at the time for a chance but I’m very well aware it might escalate to a few tenors a day. It’s not much. People bet thousands and millions of pounds in a day. I don’t have that money, neither a gambler’s heart.

Above everyone else, I should know what gambling does to you. As a child I remember, my dad would show up after many months; sometimes a couple of years from service in our home. After being with us a day or two, he would then disappear again with his friends. My Mum would go searching for him in the early hours of morning or sometimes send out a ‘search party’ to bring him back. But he never gave up on that habit of his, of ‘playing cards’. It didn’t matter how much mum threw tantrums or locked him out at night to sleep on cold floor. In the morning, he would get up and go  looking for his gambling partners. ‘An addiction is difficult to give up’.

Don’t you ever put your money on gambling’.
I recall him say to me one day.
It was during a festival in Nepal called ‘Tihar’ when people sit down with friends/ families once a year and play cards to celebrate. ‘I had bet all my savings despite not having a winning hand, desperate to push my luck’. One on one, with my dad, while my siblings called off their cards nervously.

This was years after, my parents had thrown away all their life savings and put our only home in the bank for a loan. More like laundered the money, and could not claim it back because it was illegal. My dad went back to the service that year very stressed, knowing it could be years before he could pay off the bank. Leaving my mum with four children at private schools and at mercy of loansharks. All these years of life have went by and I still haven’t forgotten that ominous day, when I found her unconscious slumped outside our gate. I thought she had died that day. We were only 8/9. 

I feel, I have inherited the addiction. Being on internet 24/7 outside work has not helped my situation. I have a strange delusion, I guess more like a feeling, that someday I will land with this big bag of money out of nowhere. All for me to claim, for whatever I wish to do with…

BBC News posted a headline in April 28 2020, ‘coronavirus pandemic ‘a disaster’ for gambling addicts.’

Of course it comes with disaster. The lure of money is dark. They call it black money for a reason. It comes to you with sweat, with tears, with bloods of millions. It has travelled the world in hands of rich, of poor, of good, of evil; through unsanitary crotches of a men smuggling it through the borders, through sweaty cracks between breasts. From places to the places we cannot even begin to imagine. Of course, the pandemic made it worse. 

Be wary what you are willing to risk…

I pray, may you survive this and come out of thlockdown ‘a free man, with no loan on your head and with your lovely family still on your side’.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (A monsoon rain)

8. A monsoon rain

What do you do when you are at home 24/7 and don’t need to go to work, are not allowed to visit your friends or families, all the non-essential retails are closed and National/international travelling is banned? Just you and your support bubble.

BBC article on third of December 2020 writes ‘ ‘Pandemic has resulted in a lot of break ups and divorces’, which is very believable. Because I cannot imagine waking up and sleeping to same face and having to see it again every hour of everyday for a uncertain length of time. It is bound to peel off some scabs of old ones, to bring conversations that you always wanted to avoid or make you notice that one flaw in your partner that you wish you never had known about in the first place. Maybe it’s healthy for a relationship to have some distance between eh?

I’m sure lockdown has led to spikes in the number of conceptions in the world despite that. If you don’t have readily available contraceptions in the market and have more leisure time… But again, who knows maybe I’m wrong. May be it’ll go opposite way. Because of distance, lack of social bonding, financial stresses and etc etc. Baby boom or a baby bust? Personally my money is on the ‘boom’.

We all know pandemic has drowned many mutimillionaire businessess along with lot of locals. Especially restaurants if they are not doing takeaways, pubs & bars and entertainment venues. But, some have done exceptionally well. One of them is ‘porn industry’.

People are looking for an outlet.  Whether it’s for a sexual pleasure or for an emotional companionship. Some are even considering this period as an oppurtunity to be more adventurous. How do I know? Well, we certainly are seeing more cases of stuffed bottoms and vaginas in A&E. Hey, no judgement. So people like some excitement, it’s their life. But maybe, one should reconsider some of those plays if it’s causing them to have severe whole bowel inflammation or a major haemorrhage and days of hospital admissions?

It’s obvious. Gaming industry has profited. What about Amazon? Skyrocketed on its sales. Do you know, number of chocolates I have ordered and send them across to my colleagues and families? And the amount of money I have spent on DIY crap in there? What about Netflix? On my off days, all I do is sit on my lazy ass and watch Netflix till I feel like my eyes will pop out soon. My friends report they are doing the same. And think about Facebook, Wattsapp, Instagram. I have never used these as much as I’m using now. Every second I’m free, oh I am on it! Microsoft? All the hospitals and the companies are using teams.

Glad to see some local businesses thriving too. Those takeaway shops I had always liked. Local printing houses. People posting fliers and posters everywhere requesting ‘stay 2 meters apart’. And of course those selling face masks. ‘Mask is the new fashion’. Funnily, I even saw an electronic shop displaying some vegetables outside in open just to keep its business going… 

Maybe the empty roads  and the closed shutters are not just the sign of disaster; may be  like a monsoon rain that can flood a village, yet at the same time  soak the soil and be a blessing to farmers, there are also positives too. We just need to keep looking for that…

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Please wear a mask)

5. Please wear a mask

My dad works about an hour away by bus. My mum tells me he still wakes up at 4 am in the morning to get to work because he wants to take an empty bus, when he’s meant to start at work at about 6. He’s worried that he might catch Covid if comes in contact with more people. Can I blame him?

It’s annoying. Even though the TFL services are fully vigilant and are trying their best  to impose strict punishments  to enforce rules -for people to wear masks, people are still not complying. Be it a stupid teenager who wants to look cool and play daredevil, a 30 yr old princess who thinks her makeup is too good to stay hidden or a 55 yr old educated man with a suitcase- singing slogans about violation of human rights…

There is a limit to how dumb one can be.It is just simply impossible for those of us with normal intellect and a normal brain to comprehend that level of ignorance. It is at these times I think we should feel blessed to know that we are not  the ones dragging the human race down. Evolution left some of us way way behind.

My brother works in a warehouse. He tells me once upon a time, before Covid happened, it was bustling with people. Even on nightshifts, he used to have company of the security guards and and colleagues that would make work fun in some ways. But now, being there alone with other mate posted meters away to opposite end of the building, makes him feel dreary. When I hear him describe his work place, my hyperactive imagination places him as a lone guy on an empty city, cropped out from a movie scene about a zombie apocalypse! God am I glad, my 5’2 inch body is atleast sorrunded by people, has adequate lightening and a constant access to refreshments.

Some of them got forloughed’, he says, ‘Some of them left their job’, ‘a few I know passed away’. ‘It’s sad’. ‘There were some who we hired to work but soon there was outbreak amongst the workers so did more harm than good’. ‘People are desperate. Especially non-essential workers who lost their job. They have family who need to be fed. It wouldn’t surprise me if they hid the fact that they had been infected with Corona’.

He understands it.
I understand it.

The struggles of minimum wage workers, employed in UK at rate per hour. When he came here my older brother was 18, employed as a labourer himself in a minimum wage. He did a lot of jobs, any that the agent could manage to find for him at that time. Of course it was hourly and depended on day-to-day on what kind of job it was. And out of that, the agent took off 2% hourly rate. Of all the work he did manage to do, he describes ‘Job as a loader’, picking up waste for disposal and recycling as the hardest. He comments it being very physically strenuous. ‘I had to run, grab the bins and dispose the contents within given time.’ And they did that one stop after another. By the end of the day he recalls, being very tired, sweaty and painful with blisters on his feet from the ill fitting boots they had provided.

I sat in the shower for a long timeI really enjoyed the long shower that day but while I was in the shower, I had completely forgotten to close the door behind and our aunt accidentally walked in. That was one of the most embarrassing moment of my life’. He still laughs almost tearful recalling the incident. But my tears are not stopping every time he talks about it, because I can’t imagine a fat boy who never lifted a thing on his life, who cried and got himself kicked out from private karate classes and who never had to worry about money/responsibility his whole life had to do all that.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Grab a bouquet)

Grab a bouquet! Grab a bouquet!’ Shouted a man, stood near a stall with stacks of flowers lined outside our hospital.

Can I have this bouquet?’. I asked picking up one with lovely roses. ‘Ofcourse whichever you like. It’s for you, for all the NHS staff.’

It feels wrong to accept these ‘thank you’ gestures. But sometimes, a little appreciation for effort really makes up for your gloomy mood.

One of the patient’s family members had a go at me on the phone that day. He was upset because  he could not come and see his dad at end hours of his life. Could not afford to self isolate for 10 days from work and also had to look after his Mom who was shielding. Video call was not possible since Mr Zee was too drowsy. Understandably, his son was frustrated , he wanted to be there for his dad.

It got me.
Made me feel demotivated. I don’t know how  time flew by after that. I only recall going home later that day sulking to myself. 

Nursing colleagues reported the same. Some families were being rude to them over the phone, demanding visit to the ward, being crossed on hearing about self isolation rules, angry about not being contacted on time to get update on day’s events, complaining about patient being transferred from one ward to another etc etc.

Hey Sis’, I called my sister that night. ‘What are you guys doing?’ I asked. ‘Just having dinner. Mom made goat curry’. She replied.

I don’t know why. Hearing that made me jealous that day. Felt unfair. For me to move all the way here so that I could be close to my family but to be staying away again. Counting days for past 9/10 years of my life, across the globe and  yet, here I am. 

In my dreams my little brother is  8-9 years old. He is 24 now. About to leave home soon. I feel silly  thinking  COVID might be taking away all the quality time I could have had with my brothers and sister before they leave the house and go their own paths? I already missed my wrestling and Chokeslam phases with them. I don’t want to miss more.

People are going to come into our lives and soon they’ll take more priorities…

We do wish we could be like a human sponge to soak up all the misery. We really do understand how you feel. But we do have much in our plate too. If you could see that and be a little kind to us as well’.

‘Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is a dream.’

I hope like the song goes, we all wake up from this nightmare soon. Till then, you can borrow this song I use, to ease my mind. 

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Broken Hearts)

3 – Broken Hearts

A patient said to me’ I have a broken heart doctor’. Knowing that she just lost her husband to COVID battle recently,  I sighed on aggreement.

My son asked me, mom why are you like this? What happened to you? And I replied to him because my heart is broken. I miss your dad. He didn’t understand, he thought I’m just grieving. But doctor, my heart really is broken. It aches. That’s why I am so unwell.  My cardiologist said so’.

I did not understand what Debra meant at the time. Yes people do have heart attacks, anginal episodes following stressful situations and emotional shocks. But a medical terminology called a ‘broken heart?’. Naturally out of curiosity I opened her notes and started looking at the letters. Found out she had Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also termed as ‘broken heart syndrome’.

The triggers for this condition are often intense physical or emotional events that causes release of high levels of stress hormones thus  damaging the heart muscles. It then starts ballooning at its apex causing ineffective contraction of it’s pump action resulting in various symptoms.

Good news is, it is a reversible. It may take weeks or a few months but she will be back to health. But I don’t know,  if she will ever recover from that emotional injury. I hope she does.

The pandemic severed many ties.
There were times when I, myself, felt I couldn’t go on.

A dying father and severely unwell son on bays next to each other. A woman who chose to slowly die refusing any form of treatment after loosing her husband in the same admission. Another, having an anxiety attack in corridor next to the ward, she last saw her husband being wheeled. A daughter who had finally met her birth mother but lost to Covid and cannot attend her funeral.

A wife whe came to bid her husband goodbye on his deathbed, contracting the virus herself, and presenting to hospital gasping for breath. A man on his 40s tearing relentlessly, unable to
communicate his feelings because he can’t speak English.

The story goes on and on.

News after news.

It is tiring.
Through the 1st lockdown.
The 2nd lockdown.
Now a third…

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened?(Missing number on stats)

2. Missing number on stats

Let me introduce myself, before I start blabbering for next 30-40 pages about how the virus affected my life and that of people surrounding me.

 ‘So you are a doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened!’, is a diary of an Asian, junior doctor working in NHS during a pandemic. Simple. It’s about stories, quirks and individuality of the patients I have come across. My perspectives on life in general looking back at the past, the present that feels like chaos at the moment and possible future. Both from a medic’s eye and from an eye of middle aged foreign woman who is adapting everyday to cling on to the best of both worlds.

I was working oncall in surgical department when first wave of corona hit UK. Medias report, it was on 29th Jan/2020 when UK had its first Corona confirmed cases, 16 days after it was first detected outside China’s borders in Thailand.

Patients mainly presented with fever, shortness of breath and dry cough. Often in severe conditions. A few, presented with entirely different symptoms of diarrhoea/vomiting which was later found to be correlated with Corona. Loss of sense of smell, loss of taste were common overlapping features, but not always consistent. Lung Xrays showed florid changes. Multiple white patchy shadows all over the lungs. Inflammatory markers were consistently raised. As a rule a particular line of blood cells called ‘lymphocytes’ always seemed to be low. So little was known, we were ordering a whole battery of tests for each patient. With every cases that showed up on the front door; doctors and researchers all over the world were picking new information and learning about the disease itself.

They were morbidly ill. Almost all of COVID patients required oxygen, and a lot of them needed some form of support to drive it into their lungs. One by one CPAP machines and ventilators were fully occupied and the hospitals drowned with crisis of beds, capacity for the machines and o2 cylinders.

There was no halting the rise in numbers of mortality. Checking daily updates on GOV.UK became the first thing to do even before I got off the bed to wash my face. Sad part was, we knew these were only reported confirmed corona deaths, there were thousands in the community.. at home, in the care/ residential homes that passed away who were not tallied to the figures. ? Cause of death. People were avoiding hospitals.
Seemed like they would rather risk a possibility of death than a sure death with a virus from an infected environment.

When the lockdown eased, other patients (those aside from Corona) started showing up again. You could tell by looking at them that they didn’t want to be here but the pain and suffering at this point had passed the limit of sanity. They had sat out through the lockdown with a burst appendix, with a full blown obstruction and with fractured femur bones. They needed medical attention and urgently.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Rise of Pandemic)

So you are a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened

1. Rise of Pandemic

It is 16 February. 44th day of 3rd national Lockdown in the UK.

Since the first lockdown that was aired on March 23, 2020 by MP Boris Johnson stating ‘you must stay at home’, our lives have taken an abrupt turn to a seemingly endless uncertainty in our future here.

But same is the story around the world. Millions of deaths has been attributed to Corona since January 30th when WHO declared it as a ‘public health emergency’. The pandemic, later known as COVID-19 has stirred more fear in us and claimed more deaths than the global outbreaks;  with swine flu, SARS, Ebola and MERS combined.

On April 2020, MP Boris Johnson himself  was hospitalized with the COVID. Few months following that, President Trump and the first lady of US tested positive for it. Everyone knew,  if they hadn’t done so already that the virus  was infective, lethal, spreading rampantly and had no boundaries. ‘No one was safe’. From rich to the poor, children to old, healthy adults in their prime to sick and disabled.

The rules of lockdown were stated clearly and reinforced maximally. All the non-essential retails were forced to close, face covering was made compulsory indoors and on public transports. You were only allowed to leave home to shop for basic necessities, to go to work,  to seek medical assistance avoid injury/illness/ or a risk of harm and meet a support bubble.

A support bubble was another household you were allowed to have close contact with,  as if they were a member of your own household and with whom you did not need to maintain a social distance with.  But one had to be eligible for that too. There were certain criteria. Otherwise rules of social distance was applicable- stay 2 meters apart.

It was crude but a must. Transmission from people to people had to be stopped. There was no end to the threat the virus was unfolding- to people’s  lives, to society, to health sectors and to the economy.

%d bloggers like this: