How can I help?

If you’re fortunate like me, you’re probably sitting at home, twiddling your thumbs, waiting for your sense of smell to come back. I use the word ‘fortunate’ advisedly because the way things are in the country currently, consider yourself lucky if you’re stuck at home and not running around looking for a hospital bed or an oxygen cylinder for a loved one.

I say ‘twiddling my thumbs’ because as much as I want to help in this time of crisis, I don’t know what to do. I admire all good Samaritans who have stepped up and are arranging resources such as hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, concentrators, home-cooked meals, medicines for Covid-19 affected families. It requires resourcefulness, doggedness and a never-say-die attitude. Hats off to all such people! I don’t fall in this category either due to lack of trying or on account of lacking the resourcefulness needed for doing such work.

So as I was thinking about how I can help, I came up with a few things I can do which may or may not make a difference. But it’s still worth trying. If you are in the same boat, you can try these too –

Stop Going Out

Just stop – put a hard stop on going out. Unless you have a medical emergency that requires you to step out or you have to be vaccinated, stay inside. They deliver everything at home these days, make use of these services instead of going to the market yourself. Don’t call anyone to your house for a drink and don’t go to anyone’s house even if they invite you. Two weeks ago, I didn’t do it – I could not say ‘No’ to a staycation with friends, nor a small gathering at my house over tea. Not saying ‘No’ has cost me and others around me as well. I know you may think that people’s feelings get hurt when you say ‘No’ but in the long run you are doing both yourself and them a favour.

Try not to spread negativity and fake news

It’s tempting to forward every Covid related message you receive on Whatsapp to all your other groups. You think you are being helpful, but you are not. If what the message says is true and contains bad news, then it immediately brings the spirits of the reader down. People are already in low spirits; reading about deaths and lack of hospital beds, etc. makes them feel worse. There are enough and more sources from where people get this sort of news – newspapers and TV news channels are full of it; no one wants to see it every time they open a message.

If the forwarded message contains Fake news, there can be nothing worse than that. Just a few days ago, Whatsapp was rife with messages about using a nebulizer as an oxygen cylinder. Not only are such messages untrue, but they can also be extremely harmful to people relying on them. It takes not more than a minute to verify the veracity of most Whatsapp messages using the Internet. Take that minute, verify what you’re sending. Better yet, don’t send it at all – you’ve no medical knowledge, leave it to the doctors. Forward memes and jokes instead!

Lend a patient ear

This is a tough time for everyone, even those who have not been afflicted with Covid-19 or those who have recovered from it. Tensions are bubbling to the surface; anxiety and stress are taking a toll on people’s mental health. If you can’t do anything else, lend an ear to someone who wants to talk or vent their feelings. Sometimes that’s all that is needed. People’s everyday concerns and worries don’t suddenly disappear just because there is a national crisis; these worries need a proper outlet. You can be that outlet. This may sound like New-Age Faff to some people, but believe me, just by being a compassionate and understanding listener, you are helping.

Don’t hoard essential items such as medicines and oxygen cylinders

I know this is asking for a lot – what happens if tomorrow your loved one falls ill and you need all these things for them? You can justify it to yourself that in this national crisis, it is fair to hold on to these things exclusively for your own use, but actually, it’s not. There are people whose lives can be saved by these life-giving items, and that’s all the reason you need to share them. Even if you don’t want to share these things with strangers, make an exception for people you know even a little. Or else, if you have to hoard these things, keep them for the use of a community/group of people so that when someone who is a part of that community/group falls ill, they can use these essential items. Remember, if we don’t share, we don’t break the cycle. And it’s not breaking the cycle that has got us here.

Stop getting angry with Doctors, Nurses and other health workers

You might think that I have a bias in saying this because my parents are doctors – maybe I do, but I’ll still say it. The healthcare infrastructure in our country has collapsed, but doctors, nurses and other health workers are not responsible for it. My 65-year-old parents have continuously, without fail, seen patients in the last 1 year, despite being in a Covid-vulnerable age group themselves. My father was seeing over 100 patients a day at his clinic till even a week back but was forced to close his clinic on account of a threat of violence from disgruntled patients. He has switched to telemedicine now, but numbers have not reduced. The phone is constantly ringing with requests for consultation or Covid treatment or pleas for help in getting a hospital bed, and yet; he answers each call patiently.

My father is just one doctor; there are thousands of doctors and other health workers who are working just like this, spreading themselves thin while providing basic medical care to an ever-increasing number of Covid-affected patients. I’m not saying they are heroes or warriors; I’m not asking you to bang utensils in their honour or shower them with rose petals. All I’m saying is don’t get angry or violent with them if they are not able to help you. This is a tough time and there is only that much they can do. I know the desperation one feels when a loved one is suffering, but taking it out on a doctor doesn’t solve the problem. Help them help you, don’t make things worse for everyone by taking your anger out on them.

If this post became preachy, I apologize. You may think it’s easy to say all these things sitting in the comfort of one’s home – it certainly is. But there are many people in the same position as me; I hope this post can help them find ways to help others in this time of crisis. If there is anything you think I should do (other than not write any more such posts), I’m open to suggestions. Send your ideas through the comments section or post them on my Instagram or Facebook page.

Stay safe!

~P

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