Surely this can't be the last time I see Sri Lanka? There's still so much left to do.

If you’re reading this now, you’ll know that things didn’t go as planned.

Friday passed by in a blur of morbidity meetings, motor vehicle accident patients, and fractures. After work, I got drinks with some of the local and foreign students, and we talked about how COVID-19 was becoming a bigger concern. One of the Australian students mentioned that someone had pointed at him in the street and yelled “Corona!,” which we put down to a bit of hysteria as we’d heard was happening back home too.

I went home and sat up late writing to my supervisor in Darwin, Australia who would be taking me for my anaesthesia placement in another two weeks. We weren’t being recalled, but I thought it was probably wise to keep them in the loop with my plans. I messaged the Australian students as well, who confirmed that we would be still on for Monday, but the local students were to be cancelled. I crawled under my mosquito net and went to sleep, resolving to think about it all tomorrow.

The next morning, a message from a friend in New Zealand – I needed to tune into our news. NZ announced its plans to bring in a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals. There was only a week between my placements in Sri Lanka and Australia, and at the time my thoughts were on finding any way to do as much as I could. I stared at my phone planner with the details of the 13 flights I had ahead of me for the elective, an outrageous amount of flying I’d saved for months for and mulled over endlessly. But there was no choice if I wanted to still make it to Australia; I would have to cut this placement short. Another message came through from a friend, relaying that Polish tourists had been sent to quarantine after trying to leave the country with suspected COVID. I realised then the gravity of the situation should I try to stay longer and be unlucky enough to contract it myself at the hospital. I pulled open my laptop and booked the first flights out that I could get, with most of the ones I selected selling out before I could get my credit card details into them. The flights were tortuous and expensive, flying in the wrong direction via the UAE, the Maldives, and Australia. After a full 80 hours I made it back home, and entered self-isolation. During the three days I was travelling, Australia cancelled all student electives and then eventually shut down their flights, too. By the time my self-isolation was over, the nationwide lockdown had already begun, and it was too late for me to get travel permissions to continue my studies. I kept in close contact with my friends in Sri Lanka through this time, even getting to follow along as they trial new therapies and share their favoured guidelines from overseas. Thanks to the internet, we’re able to continue working and learning regardless.

As I finish this last post, New Zealand is ‘flattening the curve’ and doing a great job to control this pandemic. Things have changed for everyone. This is certainly not how I expected to be ending my medical elective! But, bit by bit, we’re beating this together. Reach out to your whānau and friends. Kia kaha!