We Owe Them

When COVID hit, a lot of us started referring to healthcare workers as heroes. I think some of that has gotten lost a little, in the year-and-a-half we’ve all collectively endured. We’re all tired, I know, but we can’t forget this. We owe them.

I have a lot of healthcare folks in my immediate family and close friends, and one aspect that I’d like to highlight is that healthcare isn’t the military — they didn’t actually sign up to be sent into a situation where they’d be putting themselves at daily risk of their actual lives. They didn’t sign up to put their families’ lives at risk either.

Every single healthcare worker — and every essential worker on the front lines — who *didn’t quit* when they absolutely could have, is a hero. They became heroes when they decided to stay, and when they reaffirmed that choice, day after weary and frightening day. And those who found it was breaking them, who had to step away after a time — they’re heroes too. Sometimes the battle breaks you; we should honor them as well.

I’m quite sure we’re going to see (are already seeing) a massive surge of healthcare and other essential workers (food service in particular, which I believe is the sector that’s had the most COVID deaths) leaving their professions in the next year, because it was just too much for them. Your doctor is quitting their job, or moving to a much smaller practice with fewer hours? That’s why. They got us through the crisis, and now they’re falling down.

And I know that in a lot of places, hospitals that were financially hard hit (some to the verge of closing) are now loading people up with more work, longer shifts, even cutting pay, which is surely adding terrible insult to heart-and-soul injury. These people deserve hero pay for those days worked, and access to serious trauma counseling for as long as they need afterwards. So many of them aren’t going to get that.

Here’s my ask — if you’re in a position to help build public support for essential workers and trauma recovery treatment, please do. Maybe that means speaking up at a community listening session. Maybe that means figuring out which elected officials are going to support that funding, and write them letters letting them know it’s a priority for you.

Maybe it just means being appreciative when you finally go to the doctor for that long-overdue check-up, and letting them know that you see them, you see what they did. Bring them some homemade cookies. Say thank you.

They took care of us; now they need us to take care of them.

*****

In addition, if you can — and I’ll note that I was in tears for a good segment of this, so I understand if it’s too much or too close right now — I’d like to ask you to watch this documentary, “The Surge at Mount Sinai.” It’s a little over an hour.

It features my sister, Dr. Mirna Mohanraj (Mir Mo Ga), a pulmonary/critical care doctor who was working in New York throughout the worst of this. She speaks so brilliantly and eloquently throughout this, she takes such tremendous care of her people, both staff and patients, I’m pretty much bursting with pride; my little sister has grown up to be one of the people I most admire in the world.

(Our youngest sister, Dr. Sharmila Mohanraj, isn’t in the documentary, but she is also amazing, an infectious disease doc in D.C. Props to her too! And while I’m doing shout-outs, props to our immigrant parents, Dr. Navaratnasingam Mohanraj and Jacintha Mohanraj, who apparently raised three daughters with overdeveloped senses of community service.)

You’ll also briefly meet Mirna’s husband, Gian Gandhi — and they don’t mention this in the documentary, but I have to shout out that Gian’s a healthcare economist at the U.N. and through the whole time Mirna was going in for direct patient care, he was working frantic long hours putting together funding to get millions upon millions of vaccines to developing nations around the world, which not incidentally, will help to stave off more variants like Delta developing. Gian’s kind of Superman, folks; he did more to save the entire planet than anyone else I know.

You’ll also meet my niece, Savreen, who was an adorable preschooler through all of this. She’s going to put a big smile on your face, because she is the cutest, and I am not biased about that at all.

It’s not a downer of a documentary, amazingly — the filmmakers chose to focus on stories of hope and survival, along with stories from ICU nurses, patient transporters, and all the vast healthcare team that came together in this battle. I recommend it to you all.

If you don’t have Discovery+, you can sign up for a free trial to watch this: https://www.discoveryplus.com/…/the-surge-at-mount…

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