A Love Poem presented at SAPC ASM 2021 by Astha Tanwar


A note on resilience

For many of us, the last year has been a challenging one, whether at work or at home, as we faced the reality of a pandemic like no other.

As a medical student, I volunteered with a communication team connecting ITU patients and their families. I found the meaning of an empty bed quickly changing. Coming onto the ITU unit and seeing an empty bed was no longer just about transfers and discharges; it now represented a rapid turnover, a broken family and another lost battle.

Intriguingly against this backdrop of devastation, I have never felt more a part of the team. Everyone was united – not just against this deadly disease but also in the hope of fewer admissions the next week and fewer deaths in the weeks that followed after that.

This hope wasn’t just restricted to the medical team. With every medical update, families still held onto hopes of recovery to cope.

On one occasion, a senior ITU nurse asked me, unprompted, if I was doing okay, recognising my inexperience and the challenges that brought. The conversation that followed was a stark reminder that whilst she may be more experienced than me and more equipped to deal with the challenges of Covid, she was not immune – her resilience required hope.

When I was applying to medical school, over 5 years ago, I distinctly recall the emphasis on resilience – but it was only after meeting the doctors and ITU nurses, the families, the patients that I understood what it meant.

This poem serves as testament to the strength of every healthcare professional and family altered irreversibly by the impact of Covid-19.

I wanted to explore the resilience of the human spirit as we grappled with a pandemic that has changed medicine, perhaps forever. Using push-and-pull imagery often seen in nature whether in waves or seasons as they shift, it considers the intricate relationship of resilience and hope.

And as I shared it with my colleagues there were new interpretations of what it meant, what the shape of the poem meant and ultimately, who the poem reminded them of.

I’d like to thank Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, Sue Stewart and the Society of Academic Primary Care for encouraging me to present the poem and write a blog post, but most importantly, I’d like to thank the numerous (far too many to name!) healthcare professionals who inspired this poem.

Ashi Tanwar