The Lockdown Diary – Day 20

Geneva, Saturday 4 April 2020


Here’s some reason for hope. The number of new COVID-19 cases per day in Switzerland seems to have levelled off. 

The Lockdown Diary 39
COVID-19 cases per day: Switzerland (Source, Johns Hopkins)

However, it’s too early to say for most other European countries and, regrettably, the USA is still booming upwards in its position as the third “epicentre.”

I believe the figures generated by Johns Hopkins. Most people do. But even though public health science and medicine are believed in and are generally trusted, there’s a lot of space in peoples minds for an overarching spirituality with respect to their well-being. Many would listen attentively to the public health experts, change their behaviour appropriately and, nevertheless, find comfort in praying to whichever deity they believe in. The interface of health and faith is as complex as it is fascinating.

Many years ago, I was working in an ICRC field hospital on the Thai-Cambodian border. I operated on a man with a perforated intestine. The following morning, I found my patient seemingly well but having smoke blown into his face by a shrivelled little guy wielding an enormous herbal cigarette. In addition, Shrivel was burning the patient’s chest with the glowing tip of the cigarette. I also noticed that taped against the patient’s forehead was a small glass in which a captured wasp buzzed angrily on the skin. (I learnt later that smoke, burning and stinging are used there as traditional medicine for a variety of ills.) “What’s going on here?” I asked, rather haughtily. “Doctor Robin, this is traditional medicine!” replied our Cambodian nurse-helper. “OK, but this man has had a great big dose of western medicine including safe surgery. Why does he want traditional medicine as well?” There was a minute or two’s discussion. “Ah, Doctor Robin, he thanks you for your western medicine. He thinks it is good for his intestine problem. (Too right, it is!) The traditional medicine is to get rid of the bad karma that gave him the intestine problem in the first place.” I didn’t have an answer to that. I thought it was a big load of old billybolony. But then, I reflected…..whatever floats your boat! 

Our friends, Phil and Michelle who live in Chamonix, have taken lockdown golf to a different level. “Par Wars – the quarantine edition!” Love it! (They have a great B&B up there, so go and stay when all this is over.) Our comparatively unimaginative balcony putting continues but nevertheless, is taken very seriously. Today, I won 2 and 1. That’s 11 games to 5.  

“Doctor, I’ve got a strawberry stuck up my bottom.” The doctor replies “Do you want some cream for that?”

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