Dr Karen Donceras Nadua, Associate Consultant, Infectious Disease Service, KKH
When COVID-19 first broke out in Singapore, I was only a few months into my journey as an associate consultant with the KKH paediatric Infectious Disease Service. The beginning was a period of flurry of activity and I remembered feeling galvanised, if not slightly sombre during that unusually busy Lunar New Year period. Little did I know then, how our lives would be irrevocably changed.
Soon after, I witnessed the swift execution of the disease outbreak taskforce plan by the hospital, led by our leaders, some of whom had been 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) veterans.
While this was a highly valuable, once-in-a-lifetime educational experience, the steep learning curve and uncertain nature of the novel infection was anxiety-inducing. I figuratively and literally lost sleep during the nights when I was on call to field COVID-19-related queries from colleagues from all over the hospital who were seeking guidance from us, infectious disease specialists.
Fortunately, the COVID-19 cases in children have been mild. Nonetheless, the virus has impacted our patients beyond their physical health. Due to its highly infectious nature, entire families can be affected and sometimes have to be separated. Bearing in mind the emotional needs of our young patients, we have tried our best to keep both parents and their children together in the hospital as far as possible. We have had some happy reunions, when we were able to bring relatively well parents from other hospitals to be admitted together with their child in KKH. For this to happen, my colleagues and I had to revive our general medicine skills again to look after the adults, after examining only babies and children for many years!
As the pandemic continues, it is inevitable to feel weariness from the physical and mental stress, and from being physically distanced from friends and loved ones. I draw strength from my colleagues and family. I feel spurred on when I see everyone around me, in their respective roles, quietly hunkering down to get the job done. Behind every front-liner is an army of supportive colleagues, as other illnesses do not stop for COVID-19. I cannot be prouder of my colleagues who have stepped up to be part of these teams.
The appreciation from members of the public has also been encouraging and heart-warming, like the very spontaneous thank-you note that my young neighbour slipped under our door, or many a cup of hot coffee or hot meals from thoughtful colleagues and well-wishing donors. My family, despite their great anxieties about my profession, did not question or try to stop me from continuing my work and instead have given me their overwhelming support.
Although the uncertainty remains, and as the months drag on, I grow more hopeful as I see the solidarity in our society. As an infectious disease physician, I am proud to be of service in the fight against COVID-19, and I am proud of the many people – colleagues, friends, and families, upon whose shoulders I stand.