“You are the best of humanity”, so says Knii Lante in his new song Humanity. He describes it as “a love song for healthcare heroes in the frontline of the coronavirus battle”. As a medical officer himself, Knii Lante knows better than most of us on the periphery of the fight. None could have put it better.
While the general public is being advised to try to stay far away from the next person, our health care workers have no choice. They have to go near their patients, administer medicines and other immune boosting supplements. They know they can catch the virus in the process but they consider it as a duty to try to save lives.
Like the soldiers that they are, they stride on as if they are going to war. They have to keep on smiling to the patients to give them hope even when they know that the patient’s condition is precarious, because they are not supposed to show emotion while at work. They work overtime, losing sleep all in the effort to keep a patient alive.
Can you imagine how they would feel if they lost their patient? The self-questioning, as to whether they could have done better, is enough to depress them. Above all, can you imagine how they feel if they have to break the news to relatives that their loved ones have passed on? They feel it the same way as the relatives themselves.
Recently I saw a WhatsApp clip of a New York Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse, on arriving at home after work broke down, tired and devastated that her patients in the Intensive Care Unit were dying and yet she could not do anything about it.
I began to appreciate the work and sacrifices of the nurses, including those in the Outpatients Patients Department (OPD), doctors, ambulance personnel, hospital orderlies as well as cleaners and laboratory technicians. I began to feel frightened, especially for the OPD nurses, especially since they may not always know if a patient has the virus but have to handle them. These are the real healthcare heroes on the COVID-19 frontline.
In the end, I feel for the Community Health Nurse, who visits people in their homes, not knowing whether any of their clients has the virus. Yet such nurses are not supplied with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) as a matter of routine.
I heard the Minister of Information saying, the other day that frontline workers are considered as those directly dealing with COVID-19 cases. My heart sank. That leaves the Community Health Nurse and the OPD Nurse completely naked and at the mercy of the virus. They are soldiers in a war but with no ammunition and protective gear. And yet they go on soldiering on.
Yet these are the people we have been taking for granted over years. They get abused, insulted and even sometimes assaulted. In most cases, these assaults and other forms of violence against health workers, even when reported by the victims, are not followed up properly by hospital administrators (Workplace Violence Against Nurses: A Cross-Sectional Descriptive Study of Ghanaian Nurses, Boafo, I. M., Hancock, P., 2017).
Let us ask ourselves: how many of the Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) have been distributed to healthcare workers in the general hospitals not directly dealing with COVID-19? Yet the nurses who initially handled cases in places such as Ghana’s Western North and Oti Regions would have returned to their families unprotected.
The New York nurse said in the midst of her weeping: “We are stressed just like everybody else. Sometimes I think people just forget we’re human too.” The same virus that could afflict the Minister’s “frontline” workers can afflict the OPD nurse as well.
All these issues are aptly captured in Knii Lante’s Humanity song. As he sings, although a medical officer himself, he positions himself outside the pack just like any external observer would. He then salutes the frontline healthcare heroes, showering them with respect and honour for the sacrifices they make, endangering their lives in order to save ours. Although they may be “tired and with not much supplies, they still fly to us as butterflies with smiles” even when things look bleak.
Knii Lante’s Humanity is a soul-touching song which every frontline health worker would appreciate. There are many songs on the market, but they are mostly geared towards educating the public on how to avoid the virus. But Humanity is the song that shows appreciation to the almost always forgotten soldiers on the frontline.
As someone who, on three separate occasions, faced the anguish of witnessing the near deaths of my brother and two sisters in the acute wards of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (Kumasi) I am touched that someone, as talented as Knii Lante could have captured my feelings about frontline health workers in a way that I could not.
I observed in awe how the nurses would turn frail patients in order to make them more comfortable; they would clean them as if the patients were their own children. Yet when you tried to thank them, they would only smile and say “it is nothing”. That is why I can bear witness to how nurses and other healthcare workers do their magic to save our lives. They are indeed, real healthcare heroes.
I thank Knii Lante for giving voice to what many people across the land have felt about our healthcare heroes but which, like me, they have not been able to vocalise. As I go to sleep, I pray that every healthcare worker across Ghana, Africa, and the world, would wake up to hear that they are highly appreciated for the service that they provide.
Indeed, as Knii Lante sang, they are “the best of humanity”.