Bare Minimum Requirements for Navigating Through Our COVID Infested World

Aging Amidst Global COVID infestation!

This morning, out of the blue, my iPhone reminded me of a few pictures of mine dating back to July 8, 2016. As you may see in them, I am pointing at “Epidemiology” and “Vacuna” signs in a hospital. At the time I was visiting several hospitals and healthcare facilities in Dominican Republic. The purpose of the trip was to secure international elective externship/clerkship opportunities for my American medical students. That day, in that hospital I took ONLY two pictures, they showed me pointing at two signs. As far as I recall my decisions for pointing at those signs were highly impulsive. Surely, I must have had a strong inner drive to point, among so many, at the Vacuna (Vaccine) and Epidemiology signs.

What intrigued me most at my first glance at the pictures was: wow, how much younger I used to look at age 67! Those pictures were shot only about 4.5 years ago! Yet I appeared so much younger to myself! Isn’t that odd? I tend to immediately notice the passage of time in others, but I fail to appreciate my own! Maybe it’s because myself and all those that I hold close to me have been aging at the same rate and velocity together. Makes me think… “wow…did Einstein also view his own aging this way?”. I trust that he must have tested his most famous theory from every reasonable angle at his own time. How do I know this? Because the most illuminating theories of the human story are the ones with the highest permeating abilities in explaining a wider number of phenomena in our physical world. Oh, wait a minute! Please forgive me for dragging you off-track while nagging about my own aging! My intention was to ask for your help in figuring out a solution to my puzzle. I would really like you to help me understand why that day, among so many signs, I posed only by two, the Vacuna (Vaccine) and the Epidemiology!

In retrospect, I can rationalize my behavior in any way that would make sense to a wider number of people. I can appeal to narcissistic reasons too! I can even passionately float the metaphysical, conspiratorial idea that I had been prompted to do so by an inexplicable mental force beyond me! Woo…it sounds spooky…but believe me there are many of us out there who are driven by spooky stuff!  Needless to say, that there are even some, the masters of quackery, who make their living out of those who believe in Spookery! I can even go one step further and claim that I have been among those elite chosen ones who were guided to foresee the future. Those signs were pointing at what our world came to desperately need, over four years later, for confronting the global threats of COVID-19 to our humanity. The message was clear, but it took me more than four years to realize it: we need the science of epidemiology alongside a workable COVID vaccine to get us out of our current misery!

Interestingly, and to make it spookier…those pictures reminded me of a later revelatory train of thoughts. It happened during the daybreak hours on February 27, 2020. That day was almost three weeks before the statewide COVID lockdown in Michigan. That day I woke up with the thoughts of writing a blog! The one that I called: “Who is the professional who knows the whereabouts of the coronavirus!”

…and you know what! I dreamed it during that early morning hours, and I posted it the very same day! You may want to click and see it for yourself:

Why did it even occur to me to think about epidemiology and epidemiologists that morning? Is there a way to make any sense out of these coinciding events? Would it be fair if I brush them off as mere coincidences? I would be utterly elated to think that I am one of those elites who is bestowed with the ability to predict the future! Is this the true meaning of “a visionary”? Am I the only one who foresaw, years ago, signs pointing to what are needed to save our humanity during the current deadly pandemic? If so, I must confess that even the thought of it makes me ecstatic! Do you think it would be narcissistic if I believe in what I just said?

You may argue that in retrospect we can make sense of any event in any way that we desire. We see what we want to see in them. Our biases and interests cast light on how we interpret the signs that we see. I saw the signs of epidemiology and vaccine back then, but I didn’t see any Coronavirus in them! Nowadays, I see COVID-19 everywhere! Was it because of this that I associated those iPhone pictures that I took four years earlier with the current COVID pandemic?

How about looking at it all from a different angle! What if there were some prodromic clues that prompted my behavior! In retrospect, I remember that back then I was utterly intrigued with the idea of global health. Was it because of the Avian flu pandemic of 2009? Was it my subliminal fear of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and Liberia? Was it the 2015 Zika virus outbreak in Brazil? Was it my subconscious fear of yellow fever, dengue, and malaria! Or was it the mere fear of traveling to a tropical country that ignited it all!

But wait a minute…maybe it was the curse of knowing just a little about so many infectious agents in a tropical country that I didn’t know much about! For as long as I remember I used to believe that knowledge is power! But now that I am looking back at this phrase, I feel very baffled by it. If I truly know something, like those microscopic creatures that I cited, then I need not to fear them! Maybe I fear them because I know how much I don’t know about them! All I remember is that back then, it was hot, muggy, dusty, and congested in Santo Domingo. I travelled to Dominican Republic at a time when most tourists were avoiding going there! But I was there for business and not pleasure! What I know with utmost certainty is that I was there four and a half years ago, and I pointed at those two signs during that trip. Would it be possible that I might have already been destined to be there at that spatiotemporal position? Honestly, the latter thoughts give me goosebumps as they shatter my entire worldly outlook!  

During the next few years after 2016, I retreated into my own cocoon! As time passed, I gradually forgot about the global impact of all those pandemics. You may wonder why! I guess the best answer is that I gradually began feeling less enthusiastic about consuming my thoughts with global public health pandemics affecting people in other countries. You may like to ask how could I justify closing my eyes on those nasty infectious diseases? Did I look the other way to avoid the agonizing thoughts of how they were slaughtering people across the globe? Surely, they didn’t go away on their own! I just swept them under the fog in my mind! But maybe it was because they were stalled and couldn’t spread the way it was originally expected of them. As it turned out, they mainly lingered in their original epicenters thereafter.  

…And then came along the fall of 2019! Back then I started sensing something odd about that common cold season. While chatting with my older pals at my Health Club, we could sense many oddities about that fall season. The grapevine talk was about a flu that was like no other flu. It was about a dragging pneumonia that has been killing more than its average annual share of our elders. There was no talk of the corona though…there was only talk about a lingering flu! By late January of 2020, it was all in open: there was indeed a flu that was like no other flu! In early February, the whole world knew that a novel coronavirus that sprouted in the Wuhan province of China was about to plague our entire globe!

We know something well if we can predict its behavior with certainty. Epidemiology gives us the knowledge to avoid, and the vaccine, the courage to confront COVID during the next chapter in the human history. 

Confession

Before you go, I must make a confession. I know that you love confessions, don’t you! Here we go: I will definitely give it my utmost consideration if I am given the opportunity of serving as one of the elites who predicts the future! 

Dr. Eftekar (Dr. E) is the founder and head coach of the Center for Conquest of Longevity and Northwestern Medical Review. A unique attribute of Dr. E is his well-rounded academic background that, in addition to the science of medicine, extends over several other disciplines such as physiology of aging and longevity, philosophy of science and medicine, and integrated kinesiology.

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