RWC Series: "Facing Challenges from Around the Globe: Covid-19"

By: Jerry Bovino, MD, FACS (USA)
Retina Hall of Fame (Founder) and ASRS (Co-Founder)

Affiliations include: ASRS, Retina Society and others.
A Message from Jerry Bovino ~

Around the World

In 1872, Jules Verne published his classic novel “Around the World in 80 Days.” Almost 150 years later, we now have a pandemic that has touched almost every corner of the globe.  And it has taken less time than it took Verne’s fictional balloonists to circle the earth.  

As I write this piece, the entire state of Colorado is on total lockdown. The Governor just issued an emergency order, awakening us from the deepest sleep early this morning through blaring noises and texts of our cell phones.  The order commands all citizens to stay in their homes unless critical services are required.  Ironically, in these days of modern medicine, we are re-using quarantine techniques from the 14th century.  During the Black Plague (caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis,) the first quarantines were enforced. In fact, the word quarantine derives from the Italian word for a 40 day period.  Health officials may have chosen the 40 day time frame because the number had great symbolic and religious meaning to medieval Christians. When God flooded the earth, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and the Bible recounts that Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.

These are times of great adversity.  But in many ways, the common enemy we are now fighting has brought us all closer together.    

There is an old English Proverb: In time of prosperity, friends will be plenty. In time of adversity, not one in twenty!

But I have found the opposite to be true during COVID -19.  My phone is ringing constantly during the day and night, with calls from old and new friends and ophthalmologists and retina specialists from around the world.  There is a universal theme to the calls highlighting the fact that we are all in this together. Each morning, I am asked for advice about retina care, surgery, emergent patients and sometimes just for some human reassurance.  Even though we don’t have a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19 yet, the caring and concern that runs through the veins of every physician has not died.  

I have confidence that the world’s medical community will soon have more to offer our patients than the 700 year old concept of quarantine.  But the first thing we need to admit to ourselves is how little we know about this disease, and how ill-prepared we were to fight it.  We all hope that the collaborative efforts of every physician on earth will put a quick end to this modern “plague.”

We must resist the temptation to rush into experimental treatments and anecdotal cures. We all became scientists and physicians to treat our patients thoughtfully and logically.  First do no harm!

Joe E. Lewis, the famous comedian, said “They had me on the operating table all day. They looked into my stomach and my gall bladder. They examined everything inside of me. Know what they decided? I needed glasses!” 

Most importantly, Lord Mansfield, who understood the inadequacies of medicine and physicians, said: “God help the patient.”
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