Sarah was bone tired after a hectic day at the hospital, she longed for a warm bath, and to snuggle into her cozy bed. She lived with her parents in a small Victorian house, which had a beautiful view of the lake. Her parents were in their late sixties, and Sarah was their only child.
Like every day her parents were waiting up for her. However tired she was, she made it a point to sit with her parents and chat with them before going to bed. Her father had a mild cough and temperature, so she gave him a paracetamol tablet which would take care of the fever.
At midnight, her deep sleep was disturbed by a knock on her door, it was her mother.
"Sarah, please wake up, dad's cough has worsened, and he's gasping", her mother sounded concerned.
She rushed in to check on her father. He really looked sick and was breathing laboriously, his body was burning with fever.
"We need to hospitalize him immediately, Mom"
She helped her father into her car and drove as fast as she could, it didn't make sense to her that, a simple case of flu could make her father so sick.
His condition had worsened after they reached the hospital, The resident doctor examined him, and immediately admitted him to the ICU.
They hooked him on to a ventilator, which eased his breathing to some extent, a nose swab was taken and sent for a test.
Few days ago, Sarah had heard about a virus Covid-19, which originated in China and had traveled all over the world making people fatally sick. The virus attacked the lungs and made breathing difficult, which eventually led to death.
She prayed that her father does not test positive. His blood sugar levels were very high, and this could be a cause for concern.
Within a few hours results were out, her father was Covid positive. Sarah was worried now. She hoped her mother wasn't infected too because this particular virus was highly contagious. She went to check on her father but he was fast asleep,She knew her mother would be sick with worry so she left for home.
It was almost morning when she returned home. She showered, and went back to the hospital, promising her mother to call, if there was any change in her father's condition.
She entered the ICU, her father was laying calmly on the bed, breathing through the ventilator.
"Dad", she whispered, but there was no answer.
She shook him gently but he didn't respond.
The nurse came in and told her that her father had slipped into a coma few hours ago, and was not responding to the treatment.
Sarah was shocked, her father's condition had deteriorated rapidly, and was getting worse.
The ICU was overflowing with patients, within a few hours they had fifty new cases, and more were coming in.
She called her mother to inform her about her dad's condition.
"Sarah, how can an ordinary flu turn so deadly"? asked her mother crying.
"I don't know Mom, I'm as puzzled as you. I will speak to the doctor, and call you back”. But none of the doctors had anything concrete to say.
News was trickling in from all over the world of people dying of the disease and there was no medicine or cure for it, the treatment and the medicines used, were on an experimental basis.
Next day the news was flashed all over that a pandemic had taken the world by storm, everyone was very scared.
Sarah had to go about her duty, as many more people were being admitted to the hospital, and it was mayhem. The wards were overflowing with patients, and there was a shortage of beds and ventilators. Patients were being sent away as the hospital couldn't accommodate more.
Next afternoon, Sarah was on her rounds, when she got a call from the ICU that her father had breathed his last.
She went flying down to the ICU. They had already removed his body from the bed, and another patient had taken his place.
Her father's body was wrapped in a plastic bag, and they refused to hand over the body to her.
People were dying by the hour. Bodies were piling up. The hospital refused to hand over the bodies to family members. They had appointed few aides to dispose off bodies, as they wanted to stop further spread of the disease.
She knew her mother would be devastated on hearing the news and so was she, her father was the pillar of their family.But there was nothing she could do about it.
Next day Sarah was back to the hospital doing what she had to do, there was no respite now, people were dying by the dozens daily, the staff had to be present all times. The doctors and nurses were warned of the consequences, if they chose to remain absent from work. They would lose their license if they faltered in their duty.
Sarah stayed back in the hospital as much as she could, she was scared of going home, her mother was vulnerable, and could get infected, but the inevitable happened. Her mother too got infected and died of the deadly virus.
There was no time for mourning, as Sarah had her hands full, hundreds of patients were coming in every day. The hospital was her home now, she preferred it that way than coming to an empty home and sad memories. She had lost not only her parents but also her best friend Jane, a fellow doctor, to the deadly disease.
The pandemic lasted for two years till a vaccine was developed, by the time many people had lost their loved ones, their jobs, money, etc. Those two years were hell for her,and it was a wonder she came out of it unscathed.
"Doctor Sarah, your are needed urgently in the emergency ward". She heard her name being announced repeatedly on the paging system and practically ran towards the elevator to reach the emergency ward on the eleventh floor.
Sarah had been on emergency calls since the pandemic but it was much less now. There was shortage of hospital staff. Sarah had lost many of her colleagues to the deadly disease, a tragedy which made her realize how fortunate she was, to be alive, and not take anything for granted. She looked around the emergency room, once it use to be overflowing with patients and now there were only a handful of them. She was happy the nightmare was over.
After her night shift Sarah was ready to go home. She stood at the hospital window cradling a cup of coffee, inhaling the fresh air. It was a beautiful morning, the birds humming in the sky, the sun just rising, smiling through the clouds. Her spirits lifted, she had never felt this way for a long time. She had undergone so much, but she never gave up, or lost her will, and she was thankful for it.
Sarah always had the feeling she was alive for a purpose. She was ready to help people in whatever way she could. Her parent's house was locked up, she couldn't bear to spend any time there,as it was too painful for her, everything reminded her of them. She had rented an apartment close to the hospital, and her life had returned to some level of normalcy.
Her life was restricted to her apartment and hospital, she was not interested in dating or socializing. She had few friends and spent her free time with them, if she was lucky enough to get some.
Four years later, she still missed her parents, not a day went by when she didn't think of them. There was a pall of gloom around her, she tried to come out of it but, something was holding her back.
It was her day off, and she was at home just lazing in bed. Her mobile rang, it was her Boss Dr. Bigelow. "Sarah please meet me tomorrow before your start your hospital rounds". I want to discuss something important with you".
"I definitely will" She said, wondering what the doctor wanted to discuss with her. Next morning she was in the doctor's cabin before her rounds.
"Please have a seat Sarah".
"Thanks", said Sarah, and sat down wondering what was in the doctor's mind. "Sarah I have a proposition for you. Please think over it before you give me an answer".
She was all ears now.
"An epidemic has broken out in 'Bogola' a remote island in west Africa, most of the inhabitants are tribals. We are setting up a camp there, and we need good experienced doctors to go and work there. You will have to sign a contract for a period of two years if you agree.
Sarah, I want to be honest with you, many of the doctors, I asked before you have refused, as they think it's dangerous. There is no pressure of any kind, and you can also refuse if you wish".
"How many doctors do you need?"
"The more the merrier but at least fifteen. Seven doctors have confirmed but I need more".
"How soon do you need an answer ?"
"Let me think about it, and will tell you tomorrow doctor".
"That would be great Sarah".
She thanked him and walked out of his cabin.
The entire day she thought about the proposition. She knew it was dangerous and risky too. The tribals are wary of foreigners and they rarely accept them amongst their midst, going and living with them would be challenging and a daunting task. That night she had a disturbed sleep, she dreamt of her parents, and her friend, whom she had lost to the pandemic.
When she woke up in the morning she was still undecided and thought of refusing the offer. How could she leave this place?, her parents' house, their memories, everything was here.
On her way to work she stopped by the 'house'. A feeling of emptiness was gnawing her heart. The house, which was once her haven, was now gloomy and desolate. She was restless and wanted to get far away from the house.
Her parents had moved on to another world and were at peace there, maybe its time for her to find her peace and move ahead in life, instead of clinging onto old, and painful memories.
This proposition was a golden opportunity for her, which would bring some meaning to her otherwise barren life.
A new beginning which she desperately wanted.
Maybe this was 'her calling' and she was definitely going to find out.