Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

The heroes behind the masks

COMMENT

TAGS: Coronavirus, Health

Existential fear is a strange thing. You feel you may never embrace the people you love again, never have the chance to apologize about any bridges you may have burned without good reason, never again set eyes on your favorite Aegean island chapel and see the Greek flag waving. You are gripped by an inexplicable anguish that you will never again see things that you had once barely noticed. Even the old-style lampposts flanking Vassilissis Sofias Avenue in central Athens seem romantic from the back window of an ambulance.

I have done battle with the virus. I have pulled through and may yet have the joy of being on the list of positive statistics, among those who recovered from Covid-19. I do not like writing about myself, nor am I partial to melodrama, but I nevertheless feel the need for us all to send a message of hope to our fellow countrymen and women going through a similar experience. It’s almost impossible to grasp how important it is for them to feel that they have everyone’s love and support.

The messages from old friends, associates, readers, ideological “rivals” and even friends with whom I had fallen out for reasons that now appear meaningless have played an enormous role in my recovery. They came like a whisper from the past and my mother’s sage advice: “When you fall down, just get back up and start walking.” Having been a public figure during turbulent times, I also knew that I would become the target of toxic gossip. But I decided that I had a real virus I needed to battle and would not engage with that other “virus” of hate that poisons our hearts and minds.

There is a reason why I decided to write about my ordeal. Apart from love and faith, there is one more element to survival, and in my case that was the miracle team of Anastasia Kotanidou at Athens’ Evangelismos Hospital. The real heroes today are the men and women behind the surgical masks at our country’s hospitals fighting for our lives every single day and I don’t want them to be forgotten, ever. The medical staff going above and beyond, despite their meager pay and often without the equipment they need. The first responders who show such bravery and humanity. What they do cannot be rewarded enough, but we need to ensure that once the crisis is over, these people are taken care of.

You hear them explaining how difficult it was to refuse a daughter’s wish to see her father one last time; talking proudly about the master’s degree they’re pursuing despite the arduous working hours; explaining that once their shift ends, they’re going home to take care of the kids as their spouse leaves for work at another hospital. These people are my heroes and we need to celebrate them and take care of them once this madness is over.

Greece will have a lot of fronts to hold in the days ahead and thankfully we have the leadership that is so essential in accomplishing this. But whether they’re on the border in Evros or in the country’s intensive care units, these fronts cannot be held without the heroes on the frontline being well rewarded and well equipped, and having society behind them.

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