The virus has been simmering for the last month but I determined not to become concerned. My earliest thought was what an unusually nice name Corona was and how I could not help but think of crowns, coronets and the forthcoming royal pageants in June. Albeit, in the Seventeenth century coronets were medically associated with the skin disfigurement that crowned the forehead and identified the unwitting sufferer to be infected with syphilis, or one of its many nicknames, ‘Goldilocks’. We did not yet have the more sinister naming of COVID19 and its undeniable associations with SARS.
My daughter, Tanya became obsessed with Wuhan at the end of February when I was preoccupied with moving my consulting rooms. On March 1st I moved, after ten years from my consulting rooms in Gloucester Place situated directly opposite the somewhat dilapidated but impressive Theosophical Society building. It has been very stressful leaving my beautiful rooms and when I think what those walls have listened to they will be muttering, “Life is far stranger than any fiction!” I have moved to a dreamy loft consulting room under the eaves in Devonshire in an equally impressive Regency Building, ‘The Landmark’ with a stellar view of the post office tower which one of the patients I see refers to as ‘Your treehouse palace’. Without doubt it is a room not only where walls will also grow ears but it is a room with a view. I mention the Theosophical Society only because I fear its popularity and endowments are likely, as after the war with the increase in mortality and loss, likely to increase as we watch our new vital statistics. The news today is that the death rate has doubled in the UK.
I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph… (Sergeant Pepper)
My news today is that on the advice of one of the lead ICU London consultants who consults with me as a ‘patient’, I have locked up my new consulting room door, with heavy heart, and returning to work on Zoom from my home in the Abbey Road. The key has turned. The door is locked. I don’t know when, if ever in the next year, it will open again.
It was my last day and the late afternoon, Friday 6th March, when I was in the middle of a conversation and my ‘patient’ glanced towards the window and observed a vast rainbow spinning beams of light across two aerial cranes working on the Post Office Tower that turned Tracy neon. The shared moment felt numinous… We were privileged… or damned like Job.
Now it feels God has abandoned his covenant. Forgive me, I forgot God is dead and it is Mother Gaia who seeks revenge on the collective hubris of mankind. Yes, what fools we mortals be. Our post modern technology has transgressed the divine. Without morality we are now quarantined into state isolation. And terror.
I am in self isolation at home with some of my family, with Dido the indulged hound and Zen the feral cat. I do not have any libations to offer up to the offended goddess, Gaia, unless there is a toxic snake smouldering under the polished boards. Maybe a rat.
There are two reasons for our premature isolation, neither being due to any suspected viral loading. The first is that I have been privileged, whenever anxious about medical issues, to text my friend Dr. Martin Scurr for advice, with whom I wrote a book, Doctors Dissected and who also happens to be the Daily Mail medical correspondent. (Regardless of their politics they employ great journalists.) When I woke up on Wednesday and received the following unsolicited email from him I almost freaked. Not a good beginning to any day. I have known Martin for over twelve years and never once known him to lose his head or clinical cool:
We are poised for a big wave of the epidemic – about 7-10 days away yet. To do nothing and carry on as usual is like standing still and watching the tide go out just before the tsunami came in- head for the hills now- love M
PS Beware of “ normalcy bias” worry is building; in the NHS even surgeons and others are being trained up in managing patients on ventilators with all routine work being abandoned. M.
Secondly, I am privileged to look after some senior clinical practitioner/managers in my consulting room. Hitherto, while the virus was persecuting Wuhan shores, and still without any experience of it fatal arrows their attitude had remained unruffled. “Some people will need a bit of oxygen here and there.” By the end of last week they were confirming not only Martin’s tsunami but also their fears and dread that not even ventilators would be effective in the eye of this storm. Nobody, but nobody yet fully understands what this virus is doing to produce such fatal septic shock to our lunging lungs.