As the Covid pandemic has brought our normal life to a standstill, we have become more dependent on our health workers and medical services. Our frontline workers are working day-in and day-out to make sure the spread of the virus is contained and the fatality number is as low as possible. While we all have a choice to work from home, the frontline workers simply can’t do that. Nobody can fathom the horror these health workers go through while pulling off 30 hours shifts, without any sleep or rest.
Supriya Chauhan, 32, a senior resident in the Department of Neurosurgery, lives in Puducherry. She was posted in a covid ward with 100 beds in March 2020. She was again posted in the ICU with 30 beds, where she treated patients put on ventilators who were critically ill, regardless of their covid status. “While working in casualty (emergency) as a neurosurgery resident, I deal with trauma cases. In cases where surgery is required, we had to operate them within 1 hour of admission and I had operated on trauma patients, almost 80, from March 2020 to Jan 2021, without waiting for the covid reports, as results would take a long time and we couldn't wait so long," Chauhan says. She added that most of them turned out to be covid positive.
For doctors, it has been mentally exhausting to see patients succumb to the deadly virus every day. Chauhan was not able to visit her parents for an entire year. She was not able to support her parents during these tough times. She says, “I met my parents after one year. They live in Hyderabad. Once, my mom was ill and my sister didn’t tell me thinking that I won’t be able to travel and I will get worried. She just wanted me to focus on my work. I feel blessed to have them in my life as my parents. Sometimes during my night duties, they stay awake the whole night so that they can call me whenever I get some time. This is because they don’t want to disturb me during the day when I usually sleep."
Chauhan has witnessed countless dreadful cases, patients she is still treating. She says that there were times when she felt extremely helpless which made the situation worse and more depressing. While recalling a heartbreaking incident, she says, “A young patient, the only son and earning member of the family, was on a ventilator and critically ill. His parents were old and thankfully Covid negative but used to wait the entire day outside, eagerly waiting for their son to recover. They had no relatives to help or support them. It was painful to see them sleep outside during chilly nights. After their son's death, I could feel their pain but I felt equally helpless."
She says, "Witnessing helpless parents mourning their lost child and not able to say the final goodbye is extremely painful." From March to August last year, when there was a surge in cases and resources were limited, she faced many difficulties. As a doctor, she individually takes enough precautions to keep herself safe and healthy. She says, “I wear a mask every time. When I am operating, I wear two masks -- three-layered masks over my N95 mask and a face shield."
She recommends that we should wear a good quality 3M N95 mask while travelling which should be discarded after reaching our destination. "Try not to touch the mask to adjust, but use the straps instead to adjust the mask. Those eligible should get vaccinated as soon as possible. Make sure to donate masks to your domestic helpers, drivers, orphanages and poor people. Individually, we all can play a vital role in fighting this pandemic. We should educate others about the importance of masks and vaccination. Everyone is going through a rough time, especially the doctors who are working and risking their lives day and night. This is the time when we should start reaching out and help as many as we can and in whichever way possible," Chauhan says.