Raj Singh, DVM, MS, DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice), Regent-at-Large
In mid-February, my wife Melissa and I traveled to Panama City, Panama to see some snowbirds, my eighty-two-year-old father, and Liz, his significant other. Little did we know at that time that our world was about to flip on its backside. COVID19 was just getting started and we were greeted with hazmatted temperature takers upon disembarking from the plane in Panama City.
During our stay we had the great fortune of seeing three different sloths (los perezozos en Español) on some hikes we took in the rain forest in the middle of the city, and on a nature trail at the newest locks of the Panama Canal. More about the sloths later. We also saw and heard howler monkeys in the rainforest, a butterfly aviary, an American army base and a Panamanian/Spanish 1800 vintage fort. A real vacation by our standards. I asked a recently retired surgeon on our day tour what she thought of the outbreak. She wasn’t concerned, she said, it isn’t worse than the flu. She did not know, nor did the world in the middle of February know, what was about to hit us.
Shortly after returning home from Panama we became ill with cold-like symptoms, lethargy and fever. My dad and Liz eventually did too. We worried it was COVID-19. We all recovered, although dad took the longest and still had some congestion when it was time for him to head back to the states. He is diabetic, has heart disease (quintuple bypass and more stents than any of us can remember), allergies, back problems, walking problems due to peripheral artery disease and a stubbornness that has kept him alive like the cranky dogs and cats that seem to have 18 lives instead of the allotted 9. Let’s face it, he is a C-19 high risk profile.
We celebrated Dad’s 83rd birthday on April 10 via Facetime. Now he is looking into starting the use of a Freestyle Libre 14-day glucose monitor for better control of his diabetes. We Facetimed again to talk about how it could work for him, and I helped him set it up on his phone and showed him how he could share his levels with his doctor. The intensity of caring for him through situations where I am thousands of miles away is exhausting. It is and has been amazing how helpful technology such as Facetime and Zoom has allowed us to stay connected. Tomorrow, I have video appointments with my podiatrist and my physical therapist. I am glad that technology can help us “be there” for our loved ones and patients but it is obvious it won’t ever be the same or as good. It is a lot better than nothing.
Back to the sloths. They move incredibly slowly, kind of like my writing. They have very slow metabolism, eat very little-primarily leaves, and sleep 15 hours a day (COVID fighting behavior). They are camouflaged high in the trees and only come down once a week to relieve themselves (just think how little toilet paper needed). They live solitary lives using vocal calls out from tree to tree to their family members and mates. They always seem to have a smile on their faces (look for an image, it will make you smile). One of their main predators is the great Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja), one of the most powerful raptors on earth. These predators have 12.5 cm talons, 2.0 meter wingspan, stand 1.0 meter tall, and fly at speeds of 50 mph. I can only imagine being a sloth and slowly, carefully reaching the top of the tree to feel safe and secure and minding your own business, when out of nowhere you’re snatched from your perfect world, the world you worked so hard to obtain. Maybe this is a reach, but I feel like COVID is like a Harpy E and we are sloths, reaching the top of the trees in our worlds only to have our economical and healthy lives stolen away out of thin air. It’s not a great feeling. I think we know that it’s worse for many others throughout the world right now.
Hopefully, technology, science, and even the governments of the world will help save some of us. Maybe the government, science and industry will move faster than a sloth and teach us how to wear better camo (PPE, a timely vaccine, better handwashing), move around a lot less, eat healthier and use fewer natural resources so that Harpy-like COVID virus doesn’t find us. We can make our world better from the lessons we learn from COVID.
Instead of waiting on the rest of our world what can we do now? Our ABVP leadership, the EC and COR, is working, still adjusting and analyzing how we can be better, not just in this crisis, but on the other side. They are developing contingency plans to make all our processes better for now and for the long run. They are supporting each other and reaching out to support all of you. Let us know how you are doing and what we can do for you. We would like to know what you are doing for your world.
Individually, I am going to be a better sloth. I am going to move slowly and carefully, wearing PPE, washing my hands and managing my social distancing yet continuing to be an essential provider to the best of my ability. I am going to continue to educate my family, clients, and staff to do the same. I am going to take care of my patients with every bit of technology available to me, be it Zoom, Facetime, and the old-fashioned telephone and internet. I am going to consult my colleagues and friends in ABVP, down the street, and even next door using those same tools. I am going to take care of myself by exercising, taking mental breaks, eating right, drinking right, and finishing this letter so that I can get some much-needed sloth-like sleep. I am not letting COVID take over without a fight. And, unless COVID can find me and destroy me, I am going to climb to the top of the next highest tree because that’s what it means to be a Diplomate of the ABVP or a sloth. I wish you all the best and hope to see you soon virtually or on the other side in person.