Dr Aamer Jamali, MD, is an interventional cardiologist in Los Angeles, chief of staff elect at West Hills Hospital and secretary of the community’s nationwide medical association SBMAA. There were 7000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 200 deaths in LA county at the time of writing.
The streets are eerily quiet, even deserted. The storefronts are shuttered. But in the halls of our emergency department and ICU, the wards are at capacity and ready to burst. Patient beds line the hallway, and doctors and nurses pace the halls in full protective gear, looking like astronauts from a science fiction movie. Our hospital parking lot is dotted with RVs and campers in which doctors and nurses have begun to stay in order not to bring the virus home to their loved ones. Even so, many of our colleagues have become our patients and we are functioning shorthanded.
Like most healthcare workers, I personally don’t worry as much about becoming a patient myself — there is a sense of randomness and, frankly, almost inevitability about it all. But taking it home to my daughter with health concerns or my elderly parents would devastate me. That’s why before I don my protective gear each morning, I suit up first with my internal armour, Syedna’s TUS blessings, kalonji (black cumin) with honey, al-Dua al-Joshan and al-Dua al-Kamil.
For now, I continue to return home each night for the spiritual and emotional healing that comes with being with family. Whereas my evenings would previously be full of dinner meetings and other commitments, I find myself fully engaged with my family now; giving them attention I had neglected for too long, and receiving in turn support I didn’t know I needed.
Our masjid has essentially shut down, as the government guidelines and bans on congregations have progressively become more and more severe. In many ways, absence has made the heart grow fonder, as we miss the social interactions, the communal prayers, and yes, the food. Despite this, His Holiness TUS has continued to attend to our every need. Whereas our community kitchen would provide one solid meal a day for each family through Faiz al-Mawaid al-Burhaniyah, it has now been repurposed to provide grocery services for families confined to their homes. Instead of gathering for communal prayers at the masjid, we have been given the once in a lifetime opportunity to lead prayers in our own homes. As each of us battle with the throes of this invisible enemy, alone and without the comfort of the community we have come to rely upon so heavily for support, Syedna TUS has elegantly given us the tools to become better. Rather than suffer for lack of community contact, he has found a way for us to actually advance spiritually.
As I walk into our morning huddle and we discuss the day’s challenges, I am reminded acutely that Covid-19 is already in our area with a vengeance. The biggest source of fear is hearing the public health experts tell us we are not even close to our peak yet. Among the healthcare professionals, there is a collective sense of foreboding knowing our hospital and its resources are nearing maximum capacity, and yet we are still waiting for the surge to hit full force.
Despite this, the atmosphere is one of calm professionalism. These are the difficult scenarios we have trained for, and waited for, our entire careers. We have honed our skills so that we can do them behind a hood, in a tent with poor lighting and ventilation, for a patient with no other options. Each one of us who remains does so simply because of the oath we took to help others in their time of need. We are ready, we are willing, and we feel able to meet this challenge. I carry with me the Almighty’s blessings as I stand shoulder to shoulder with these heroes. With that power on our side, there is no battle we cannot win.