A New Year and some good news?

Happy New Year! My tip from the outset is let us ration our listening to blanket coverage of Covid misery through the media!

I believe this pandemic will end and life will go on. I don’t wish to trivialise this pandemic or any other global catastrophe but it is a fact that good things can come out of the most appalling situations.

Starting with Covid: Initial predictions were that it would take years for a vaccine to be developed and tested. We had absolutely zero weapons against it and people died in their thousands. Low and behold before 2020 was out, a vaccine was on the horizon. This broke all previous production records and it really works, keeping so many alive and safe. Thank you to Dr Jenner and his cow pox research.

A full understanding and extension of vaccine technology is leading to vaccine development to treat malaria and even cancer. We all know a lot more about immunity. There are lots of unanswered questions however here as well. Why are our children spared the worst effects of Covid? We know that babies don’t have fully developed immunity in their first year of life but they seem protected as well, and that, thank God, has to be good news.

Look at the 1919 ‘Spanish flu’ that picked out young people, 20 million of them in fact, some just leaving the trenches in France as tough as old boots, catching the virus on the way home, and dying en route. Even that devastating disease came to an end and why did it? There was no living with the Spanish flu then. It just disappeared. Apologies to the Spanish of course…we were not so politically correct in 1919!

We have just invested massively in new drugs, which interrupt the passage of the Covid virus through our bodies. These work, and will be another weapon to combat the disease. These drugs are a direct result of the work done on the HIV virus and its journey through our cells. 

Do you remember when we were all going to die from AIDS in the 80s, and now, a patient who contacts HIV and is treated, will probably live longer than an age-matched person without HIV! Amazing!

I could go on. Look at WW2 – nothing moves technology on like a national emergency. Rocket technology was developed and once again led to the Americans landing a man on the moon a few years later, which again was amazing. Let us also face the fact that a technology race between the super powers became a surrogate activity to replace a nuclear war. You get my point.

We all appreciate nature a lot more. We have more time to exercise and enjoy our lovely country. My happiest moment last year was seeing my two children complete the Clonakilty marathon in appalling conditions a lot faster than I ever did. What a great day!

How many new babies have been born as a result of lockdown activity?

Have you noticed how cosmopolitan Ireland is becoming? I work with doctors from all corners of the world, who keep the service going and love being here. It is so interesting talking about life in other countries and the huge sacrifices they have made to get here.

Asylum seekers risk all to reach the Utopia that is the UK and Ireland.

So let us appreciate what we have. Are we all getting a little spoilt and needy? Few of us locals want to do the menial jobs. Foreign nationals keep our factories, hospitals and service industries going. That is good news to some extent but sad that we have lost the run of ourselves looking for more and more by doing less and less.

You will never win the lottery, and if you did, it would ruin your life, guaranteed.

There is an optimal combined income for a married couple well south of 80k; too little is not good and nor is too much. 

There was a daffodil grower in Ireland who was featured on the radio. He put a huge advertising board next to his fields on a main road asking for people to apply to pick his daffs. This was during a time of high unemployment. Not one local Irish person applied and he was offering accommodation and a half decent salary. His daffodil pickers have come from Romania every year since then and do a great job.

The happiest staff in the hospital where I work are the porters. We share the same changing rooms and have great craic every morning and throughout the day. The highly paid managers not so!

They used to say that the happiest person in the hospital, when there were gardens nearby, was the gardener.

A short stint picking daffs might do us all the world of good!

So let’s keep our chins up, appreciate what we have, and try and make this a good year to remember. There is a grand stretch to the day!  

Next month, I’ll continue my series on symptoms started in December.

Dr Jeff Featherstone

Dr Jeff Featherstone is a West Cork GP and A&E doctor at Mercy University Hospital and Cork University Hospital.

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