Heroes Treated as Villains

Heroes Treated as Villains

Mariana Monsalve, Design Editor

My phone kept buzzing as I saw how my family group chat exploded with angry comments and extensive forwarded messages from doctors expressing their indignation. On April 12, The Colombian Ministry of Health  announced a new rule issued in decree 538, which stated, “Health providers and medical students who are studying their last year of their undergraduate and those pursuing a specialization need to help out with the virus and present their medical service.”

Most of my family on my mother’s side are doctors or medical students. The new law stated that those who are called by the Secretary of Health would be trained to provide their services to help those affected by the pandemic. This, with the purpose of being better prepared for a possible increase in COVID-19 cases. When graduating from medical school, doctors take an oath to always take care of patients despite the dangers they might be facing. Nonetheless, some have announced their discomfort with being forced to do so or the fact that the government is not protecting them. My cousin Dr. Natalia Gonzalez, an ophthalmologist student, describes her feeling on the matter, “We were never asked, we were ordered. Of course, I am willing to help any way I can, but the stories from other countries and the rules they implemented were scary.” 

During dinner, my mom read the exceptions to these new rules, yet they were unclear,  so she called Sura. Neither my mom nor my aunts or uncles were bound to assist, but my cousins were. They were contacted by CES and were given a set of rules and precautions to follow to avoid any danger. This included: avoiding public transportation, trying to wear normal clothes when outside the hospital, changing into protective medical gear when coming into the hospital, avoiding unnecessary interaction with anyone including other medical staff, and getting tested immediately if showing any symptoms. These measures were implemented not only as a precaution towards the virus but also towards hate and discrimination. “Being threatened by the fact that I am not only risking my health but also by being someone that people feared and sometimes even hated because of my white coat or blue scrubs is scary,” Gonzalez said. 

While staring at Instagram, I saw a post from a friend where she explained how her father, a cardiovascular surgeon, was denied the use of the elevator at his own home because some neighbors were scared he might be infected. The phrase her dad used is engraved in my memory.  “They ask me to be a hero and they want to cut my wings… and after all this, I continue to risk my life for them,” Dr. Velasquez, cardiovascular surgeon, said. There are many more stories like this one happening around the world and in Colombia. I first noticed this problem after reading the magazine Semana where Carmen Vargas, a nursing assistant in Barranquilla, was verbally and physically attacked in a neighborhood while heading to work because she was wearing her uniform. This was shocking for my family and me. Reading about her experience after being cut with glass because of her profession was unbelievable. The number of infected health professionals is above the hundreds and three have lost their lives. These are people who are risking their lives to help out those affected by the virus. Nonetheless, they still receive hate from the same individuals who say thanks and clap every night at 8 pm. “My friends and I have been screamed things like, ´get out of the streets`, ´go back home`, and ´you are going to infect us, you are going to kill us,`” Dr. Gonzalez said. 

My mom is supposed to go back to work on May 11. She is not only afraid of getting infected but also of receiving hate or getting harmed because she is wearing a white coat. It shocks me how ignorant and selfish people can be. It made me realize that the biggest pandemic is not the virus but mass ignorance. People are negligently cutting the wings of our heroes and trying to make them the villains.