The plague of our time |

Hope Amidst a Global Pandemic

The Plague of Our Time | 7 May 2020

In these uncertain times, we always need a ray of hope to survive. Dr. Varkha Lachman sheds some light and shares with NOW! Jakarta her thoughts and experience in the medical world amidst the outbreak.

Would you mind sharing your background?

I am a general practitioner and I practice in RSU Bunda Hospital. I graduated from ATMAJAYA University and have been practicing medicine since 1996. I got my diploma in family medicine from Apollo Hospital India and am an International member of Royal College of Physician. I have also achieved a Graduate Diploma in Family Medicine Dermatology from National University of Singapore. Recently in 2018, I acquired the Certificate of Knowledge in Clinical Tropical Medicine and Traveller’s Health.

How has this plague of our time affected you as a doctor?

I read lots of articles and shared my thoughts with my senior colleagues and learned a lot from them. Since the end of March 2020, with this on-going Covid-19 pandemic, I have been mostly doing online consultation for my patients. This is not a good type of practice as we cannot assess the physical patient and basing our treatment only on the symptoms. However, in this situation, this is the best approach. As physicians, besides protecting ourselves with our Personal Protective Equipments, we also must save our patients from getting exposed. I feel it’s our duty to minimise these exposures unless it is urgent and unavoidable.

How have you been involved in the fight?

I have got cases where my patients contacted me by phone and complain of fever, cough and chest tightness with difficulty in breathing. They usually panic and I help calm them down and refer them appropriately to the treatment centres recommended for this disease. Fortunately, they do update me on the findings of the test. However, their treatment is completely done at the respective centres.

Are young people with good immune system affected?

Young people tend to think that they are safe as their body’s immunity will prevent them from catching this virus. It’s true based on statistics that the fatality rate is low in young healthy individuals. Unfortunately, some carry the virus without showing any symptoms. This is also true with children, where they can be asymptomatic carriers. These people sadly transfer the virus to the elderly people at home like their more vulnerable parents who later become the victim and get sick with more complications.

Are you intensely helping people? Can you share some stories with us?

It’s certainly our duty as physicians to help people. I see people now easily panic when they get cough or fever during this pandemic. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has similar symptoms. Most of my time here is used for educating people. I help them and guide them to do the home isolation and treat symptomatically and provide them guidance to build their immunity. I educate them not to rush to get the Covid-19 PCR check and to spare these tests for those who really need it as the resources are extremely limited. 
I explain to people not to hoard medicines and medical supplies due to their own fears. I also explain to families that Covid-19 is not a stigma or a curse and when someone has recovered from it, they are harmless and are still our friends and our family and not to be afraid of communicating with them.

I provide these counselling to everyone through my WhatsApp without expecting any returns and I barely have enough time as it is.

When do you think we will get this outbreak under control and how?

I strongly believe we can fight this battle if we all join hands together—if we can all play our roles well, if people with symptoms will realise and stay home until they recover following the recommendation from the CDC and WHO. If everyone can all practice good hygiene and do the hand washing, not to cough and spit wherever, whenever they prefer. We can easily flatten the curve through social distancing and follow the recommendations from our local authorities.

What do you think should be improved to prevent something similar from happening in the future?

We need to see and act fast to protect ourselves, our family and our community and always support the government’s advices. Hopefully after this pandemic gets controlled, we all develop a good habit of hand washing and keeping good hygiene. We all learn measures of how we can boost our immunity by drinking fluids, eating vegetables and fruits, and getting adequate hours of sleep. If we continue to practice this, I think we can prevent these pandemic re-occurrences.

As a doctor do you have a quote or message for everyone to keep them positive through these times?

In the days when the world experiences such global disasters, sunrise becomes an amazing gift. This too shall pass.