Behind the Mask

We’re all in this together

For a primary care physician in a small town in Germany, the pandemic may have strained the close-knit nature of her practice, but it was the way her patients showed gratitude to the hard-working doctors that became the light to guide them through the initial dark times.

“Our lives have changed. Normally, our medical office had an open-door policy. In the waiting room you could see neighbors, friends or relatives. That was so important for the elderly and the lonely. But all that’s not possible anymore.”

In order to prioritize the safety of staff and patients, the first thing that had to change due to the pandemic, was the friendly environment that her community previously enjoyed.

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The doors are closed, you have to call to make an appointment, and only one person is allowed in at a time… For the elderly, it seems to be especially hard with the “new normal”. They feel strange wearing the mask, they feel like they can’t breathe properly, and of course it’s hard for them to understand me if they can’t see my lips behind a mask when I’m talking to them… Shaking hands seems to be something prehistoric. Things have changed remarkably.

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But at a time of social distancing and profound isolation, this community, who had lost a part of their identity, never lost sight of their community spirit. And this was made all too obvious when the very surgery that had to change everything to help patients, in turn, needed help themselves.

“The lack of PPE was the main issue. At the entrance door, we put a poster explaining the situation and asking for help: ‘We are running out of personal protection equipment for our employees. If we cannot get any during the next few days, we will have to send our staff home. So, if you know where to get some, especially masks, we will be grateful for any advice!’.

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What happened next, would not only highlight the mutual respect the patients and doctors had for each other, but would give patients the chance to show their gratitude to a medical office pushed to the brink in tough times.

“As we have the only private practice in our small town, our team members are well-known among the population, and we received an overwhelming response. One of our patients, a craftsman in his 60’s, who doesn’t speak much, came to our office and gave us a package of ten masks: ‘Take them and protect yourselves, we need you’, he told us. A few days later, the secretary of a local company that deals with event technology called and said: ‘My boss has equipped all our employees and asked me to give the rest of our masks to you and your team.”

A surgery held together thanks to support from the very patients they exist to help.

It was so great to experience a wave of solidarity and a great desire to help. I will always remember that as one of the positives to the coronavirus crisis!

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Throughout the world, communities have found ways to support each other during these uncertain times. For medical professionals, focusing on these strong points can help with the mental and emotional strain brought on by working in a COVID world for months on end.

But as we continue into winter and a potential second wave, continuing to rally behind the medical community will be more crucial than ever, to keep spirits up and minds determined. But for this small German town and their medical office? Never has the phrase ‘we’re all in this together’ felt more apt.

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