Imagine being somebody’s last hope. Feeding medicines and giving emotional comfort at the same time. Knowing that if the person dies, there will not be any goodbyes or last rites. Imagine stressed up patients ready to commit suicide or even harm others, because they are mentally shattered. Now imagine all of this, AND not meeting your family for 3 weeks because you do not want them to get infected while you continue to live under a constant threat of infection. It requires nerves of steel to even imagine this, isn’t it?
But there is a group of humans who is living this life every day. We call them SUPERHUMANS, also known as doctors, nurses, ward boys and healthcare workers.
So, the next time when you sulk about how problematic it is to stay at home just imagine the doctors and health workers who are at the frontline of Covid-19 response. Consider yourself grateful that you can choose to work from home, spend time with your family and loved ones, or create memories by following some random social media trend to share the glimpses of it on Instagram or TikTok.
Seeing the pictures of doctors wearing raincoats, masks and helmets – the only armor at their disposal has become the new normal. But they are still at risk as the dozens of doctors are getting infected, and dying, even while wearing PPE. Dr Mustaq, who works at the GMC Hospital in Kashmir, says corona virus has “fundamentally changed our lives”. His colleague adds “Imagine not knowing when you will see your family next, add that to the constant fear that you may get infected and you will begin to understand what we are going through.”
Dr. Milind Badi, who works in a hospital at Indore talks about a similar incident where he witnessed a 46-year old man who was wheeled in with a severe breathing difficulty and died within two days without any family member by his deathbed. “It ate away my soul from inside and left a lacuna in my heart”, said Dr Badi.
Dr. Fathahudeen, the head of Critical Care Department at Ernakulum Medical College in Kerala talks about the helplessness that the medical professionals face when they have to witness a patient dying alone. He shares an incident of a man who was in a critical situation but just like every dark cloud has a silver lining here it was that the man’s wife was also being treated for Covid-19 in the same hospital. The doctor brought her into the ward. She stood still as it was nothing short of a nightmare to see her 40-year old marriage end so abruptly.
But you know, saddest of all is that besides risking their lives every day and being the flag bearer of hopes all they get in return from the society are: Attacks. It just makes one wonder that are we really the same country that used to consider becoming an Engineer or a Doctor as ‘worthy’ professions. Is it the same India that bases all its arguments on ethics and morality, but attacks her doctors while claiming and faming them to be next to God?
The emotional toll is made much worse when many of these health works are themselves in isolation, away from their families, in order only to protect them from potential risks. A tweet from a doctor in Australia, @seemathewombat reads: I am a Doctor, I’m about to separate from my family within my home for a span of unknown months. So that I can keep treating you whilst trying to protect my family safe. It hurts. No hugs from my girls, no cuddles from my partner. PLS socially distance NOW, to make my sacrifice worth it.
Adding to the stress that our frontline ‘warriors’ are facing is the fact that they are the only ones to deal with the emotional breakdown of the patients. Patients are scared and doctors have to step up and become their friends and doctors at the same time. Some of them are also calling patients’ family members and addressing their fears, or worse, breaking the sad news. The process is as emotionally draining as you are feeling while reading this right now, probably more, we cannot even imagine.
But they are also human and sometimes even they find it difficult to keep going. A doctor says “My heart says to go home and see my family from far but the mind tells me otherwise. This constant struggle is very stressful. But we cannot turn our backs on the job. We just have to keep at it, hoping that we come out alive on the other side of this fight.” And despite all the challenges, Dr. Srivastav says humbly, “The satisfying part of our professional duty is that we are in a position to make a difference and we must embrace it.”