“I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Aesculapius, by Health and all the powers of healing and to call witness all the Gods and Goddesses that I may keep this oath and promise to the best of my ability and judgment . . .”
The Philippines has been alternating between different kinds of community quarantines for almost two years. The nation had believed that the first imposed lockdown would have lasted for a span of 15 days.
The country was penetrated by the deadly coronavirus when one woman, who had unknowingly been infected, tested positive in her initial swabs. By March of 2020, over 600 people were suspected to have contracted COVID-19.
“I will pay the same respect to my master in the science as to my parents and share my life with him and pay all my debts to him . . .”
News about the virus and the lockdown spread, sending fear coursing through the veins of every citizen. People rushed to the nearest supermarkets and stocked up on supplies that would sustain them for the coming weeks. There was nothing people could do but exert all efforts into preparing and adapting to what life could possibly look and feel like the next day.
“I will regard his sons as my brothers and teach them the science, if they desire to learn it, without fee or contract . . .”
But this narrative was drastically different for health-care workers. Back then, scientific data was insufficient. No knowledge and information had been released as to how to battle the virus. Front-liners walked in blind. They worked with fear, not only for the people whose lives rested in their hands, but for themselves who were sent in like pigs out for slaughter.
“I will hand on precepts, lectures and all other learning to my sons, to those of my master and to those pupils duly appointed and sworn and to none other . . .”
The health-care workforce are not and should not be seen as superheroes. None of them possess any magical powers that would alleviate the circumstances for everyone else.
Their eyes cannot cast laser beams that could pierce through walls, or have X-ray vision. They cannot heal people with a single touch. Instead, front-liners run around day and night, covered from head to toe in personal protective equipment, trying to save everyone within their reach.
“I will use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment . . .”
The flatlining tone from the heart monitor must be a devastating yet all too familiar sound to them. Sighs of exhaustion and frustration escape their mouths, as they add another load to the burden they carry on their backs. Another life lost, another number added to the mortality rate.
Medical workers admit so many patients each day, and they are reminded of their own families who are tucked away safely at home. They cannot hug them and reassure them that the Lord will grant better days for all at His mercy. Instead, they hold tightly the hands of someone else’s loved one.
“I will abstain from harming or wrong doing any man by it . . .”
Despite the lengthy hours and the tremendous work put into making sure people recoved, they are not compensated properly. They endure work without receiving their allowance. Benefits are withheld, or not provided immediately, and the salary is barely above minimum wage.
Numerous health-care workers have been infected by the virus. Many have unfortunately passed away. Some have joined the strike, protesting and pleading for more support and assistance. Their bodies can no longer take any more stress, they’re run down with fatigue. Their mental stability must be deteriorating by the hour.
Observe this oath
“. . .Whatever I see or hear, whether professionally or privately which ought not to be divulged, I will keep secret and tell no one. If therefore, I observe this oath and do not violate it, may I prosper both in my life and in my profession, earning good repute among all men for all time . . .”
Gratitude should not be paid through inscription on stone walls. Honor must not be bestowed in exchange for a life unready to be given.
Could words ever capture the service every front-liner has provided in the desire to sustain and prolong the lives of Filipinos and make sure as many of us as possible see through the end of the pandemic? Are words sufficient for the sacrifices made? Do they have the capacity to measure up against the losses health workers have endured for the gain of others?
Each day is a battle, one that they have no certainty of winning. But with just enough might and will that every medical front-liner could muster, they choose to struggle for the welfare of this country. May the fruits of their labor burst with sweetness to supersede the bitterness of the sweat from their brow.
“If I transgress and foreswear this oath, may my lot be otherwise.” —CONTRIBUTED INQ
The author is a student at De La Salle University Manila.