Musings about “Underlying Health Conditions”

In the midst of reports during our current world pandemic, one phrase regularly appears – people die either with or without “underlying medical conditions.” The vast majority seem to die with them, and it is a mystery when seemingly healthy people contract Covid-19 and die. The science cannot explain why. It leaves people feeling open and vulnerable, with a sense that “even people who are young and well can get ill and die from this virus.”

Let’s look at the medical model. “Underlying medical conditions” refer to physical diagnoses such as heart conditions and diabetes, or lung problems like severe asthma or COPD, conditions which affect one or more systems within the body. Most people will have visited the doctor and been prescribed medication, some for many years. Some people will have a combination of several illnesses, often termed “co-morbidities.” Each condition will be treated separately, often by different doctors who have specialised in that particular system or body part. This has always mystified me; that within our medical framework people are viewed as a collective of parts that go wrong, but there is no sense that those systems are connected on any level!

Conversely, the holistic approach, in what is viewed as the “alternative” world, is used by practitioners such as acupuncturists, homeopaths, reflexologists and herbalists. Any initial consultation for the presenting dis-ease (the origin of the word means anything that manifests in the body as a discomfort) includes an in-depth conversation not only about the physical symptoms, but also the mental and emotional state of the patient. This enables the practitioner to gain a much clearer picture of what is going on in the patient as a connected whole. Healing always has to include body, mind and spirit.

So when I hear that someone has died of Covid-19 and had no underlying medical conditions, I pause and wonder what was going on in their lives. It is deeply sad to hear of anyone dying in these times, especially as there is often little warning, with the condition suddenly worsening and becoming fatal. Tragically, the news tells us that many people on the frontline have contracted the virus and died. As a former nurse I can only begin to imagine the tremendous pressure that these people feel – not only are they working with extremely sick people, and often losing the “fight” to save their lives, but they are also being held up as heroes throughout the world. The expectation on them to “save lives” is enormous. To me it doesn’t feel surprising that some are succumbing to Covid-19 themselves. We hear stories of carers and other hospital workers being terrified at work because of the grave shortage of PPE. Today I hear that frontline workers are “suicidal and afraid to hug their kids.” How can this lead to a healthy mental and emotional state? Surely dis-ease must be present…

I have now heard stories from two people who know someone who had Covid-19 seriously enough to be admitted to ITU. They were both well under 70, one had mild asthma, the other no apparent underlying medical conditions. But both of them had complicated family situations with extreme fallouts over money. In the medical world, that would never feature as part of their overall medical condition, but we all know that awful “knotted up” feeling inside when we are in conflict – why would that not affect our overall health?

And finally, our own Boris Johnson. How interesting that he, Matt Hancock and Chris Whitty all appear to have been infected with the virus at the same time. Hancock and Whitty seem to have had an extremely mild version, whereas Boris came close to death. Why?

Let me share a story with you about Boris. (If you have time, watch the video – click here.)
A group of families went on a walk during Autumn Equinox, making their intention “To open the hearts and minds of those in power” in relation to climate change. Their walk took them past Chequers, the residence of the Prime Minister, and to a tiny farm shop where they decided to buy some lunch. In an extraordinary turn of events, Boris himself was in the shop with his girlfriend, Carrie. The women turned to each other and said, “What shall we sing?” and immediately walked slowly to Boris singing, “Listen to your heart, listen to your heart, let love guide you.” He was transfixed, and tears welled up in his eyes, before he caught himself and asked them if they were local. They said yes, they were, and continued to sing gently. They then went back to their lunch, but one of the party overheard Boris say to Carrie, “Where did they come from? It was like they came out of the Earth.” She replied, “Yes, and they had a message for you.” Whereupon Boris started to sing, “Listen to you heart, listen to your heart…” before walking away.

Boris became Prime Minister with one agenda – to “Get Brexit Done.” Whatever your views of Boris or Brexit, it is probable that his overarching sentiments involved “freeing” the British people from the clutches of Europe. And what was the first major action he had to take once in power? Lockdown those very same people, depriving them of their loved ones, their jobs and their freedom. I would argue that in spite of Boris’s public bombastic persona, he is also sensitive, and this directive must have felt like anathema to him. And yet he had no option but to follow the recommendations of the scientists. I can only imagine his inner conflict. Could it be possible that this left his immune system wide open to the ravages of Covid-19?

I, for one, am extremely grateful that Boris is recovering, and I hope deep in my heart that his experience will eventually, once he is sufficiently rested, enable him to be a different sort of leader. One who listens to his heart and knows that life as we have lived it can no longer be appropriate. We must change our ways to continue living on our beautiful planet. Without that change, we are lost.

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