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Serving in a Pandemic: Giving More Than Medicine

April 17, 2020

stock image of a box of potatoesBy Dr. B, serving in Central Asia 

As I write this week’s blog entry, the number of deaths in the US related to Covid-19 is over 30,000.  Nevertheless, the news is reporting that the peak may have been reached, and there is hope that these numbers will soon level off after what seems like an exponential spread of the disease in recent weeks.

Here in our Central Asian country of over 6 million people the numbers are adding up much more slowly with less than 500 confirmed cases and only 5 deaths.  Small numbers notwithstanding, the state of emergency in our country has been extended until the end of April.

This has meant that fewer patients are able to come to our clinic and more of our work has been through phone consultation and home visits.  Even so, the people are grateful that we are available to them even if they must remain in their homes.

Despite the reduced clinic numbers, we have not remained idle.  Hearing that people in the city have been out of work and without pay, our staff and family medicine residents have helped partner churches and agencies to provide a two weeks’ supply of basic foods to families in need.  Just today they were busy in between patients filling up bags with potatoes and rice and flour in the clinic reception area.

I came across a recent report indicating that 20% of all confirmed cases of Covid-19 in our area are healthcare professionals (doctors and nurses).  Considering that nowhere near 20% of the population work in the healthcare industry, this points to a significant risk for those of us who see and treat patients in hospitals, clinics and in patients’ homes.

It is a calculated risk, just like the risk assumed by firemen and policemen every time that they go out into the community.  We wash our hands, we wear our masks, and we limit our contact with our patients as best we can.  But in the end, there is no substitute for examining and listening to our patients’ bodies in close proximity.  And whether it is Covid-19, tuberculosis or AIDS, there is always the risk that we ourselves could become infected.

It was the same way for Jesus.  He came into a world of sin, and the temptation for him to sin was real.  And yet, he took that risk.  He came into the world to become the final sacrifice for our redemption.

There was an article in the news recently that showed a picture of the “Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The local authorities had projected an image of a doctor’s white coat as well as the pictures of doctors and nurses onto the statue of Jesus to honor the work of healthcare providers in the midst of this global pandemic.

While I have never felt that I was a savior figure, I have always hoped that I am doing what Jesus would do.  And I think that helping people in their time of need despite the risk is exactly what Jesus would do.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  – John 14:12 (NIV)