On a Monday morning in March, anaesthetist Dr Rob Hackett stood outside his children's inner Sydney school as a solitary protestor, asking parents to keep their children home if they could.
In the heady early days of the coronavirus pandemic, alarm was raised by a disparate mix of professionals: virologists and epidemiologists, journalists and technologists, and a range of frontline and critical care medical specialists exposed to the first COVID patients.
But as concern spread from the earliest hit countries to those threatened by their own surge, one specialty group was over-represented in public calls for early action: anaesthesia.
In Australia, medical anaesthetists from all states and territories spoke-up, not for health authorities and legislators, but for their communities. For a specialty most comfortable when not spoken of, suddenly anaesthetists were appearing in national newspapers, on radio, television, and even (very small) picket lines.
In Victoria, Dr Pieter Peach was a prominent early voice pushing for cancellation of Melbourne's Grand Prix. The Australian Society of Anaesthetist's fearless president Dr Suzi Nou guided the society's careful campaigns to prepare for the pandemic, pause elective surgery and then cautiously restart. In NSW, Dr Tanya Selak's advocacy was celebrated on Telstra's #saythanks billboard, while Rob picketed outside his children's school.
Like a warning telegram from 1940s London, the message scrawled on Rob's chest captured the zeitgeist of our specialty at the time:
"Lives depend on it. Government too slow to act."