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Opinion

How an essential worker experienced a pandemic

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Long hours of work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and erratic sleep rhythms have made 35-year-old Dr. Naman Jain eyes bulge. Other brands have faded. “While wearing the PPE suit, I had to tape the second mask that I used on top of the N-95 mask under my eyes to make it stay in place. While I was taking it off, the skin under my eyes would often tear, ”says Dr. Jain, from the intensive care department at Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.

It is an exercise in which he has now gotten better. It would take you around 10 minutes to wear the PPE suit, which includes six items of protective gear to wear in a certain sequence; now it does it in three.

Delhi is the state with the fourth highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India; the first confirmed case was detected on March 2. At first, the Delhi government designated Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital as the only Covid-19 care centers. Fortis, like many other private hospitals, began treating patients for the viral illness only in April. Dr. Jain has been in service on Covid-19 since April.

In pre-pandemic times, he worked the 9 a.m. shift. M. At 5 p. M. Or on the turn of 5 p. M. A 9 p. M. With a weekly day off, when he stayed home with his wife Shilpi. “Since April I have been working for seven days and then I spent seven days in quarantine. I have to completely isolate myself in this period. The first two months, April and May, I did not return home and was quarantined at a nearby hotel in Vasant Kunj. “

Little by little, he realized that the health crisis would pose a great challenge for health professionals. “Like everyone else, I had heard the news on television. But it wasn’t about being mentally unprepared. This is what we do. It wasn’t about not going out or staying home no matter the risk. I called my mother and told my wife that she may not be able to escape the infection and survive. If my wife had not been brave, it would have been difficult to carry out my tasks if I had to fight on both fronts, ”says Dr. Jain. “In time, I think I know how to stay safe.” But always add this caveat; there are no guarantees.

This is also what it tells patients and their assistants. “Medical illiteracy is one of the challenges right now,” he says. “Every doctor faces difficult questions from families that sometimes turn against us. It’s been almost a year since the crisis exploded in our heads, people should know that overnight things can turn serious in Covid cases, especially if a patient is older and has comorbidities. If the patient goes into a cytokine storm where the body’s immune system becomes hostile and multiple organs are affected along with the lungs or there is a massive pulmonary embolism, there is not much a doctor can do. The medical field has its limitations ”.

As a doctor in the ICU, death is not new to Dr. Jain. “It is always difficult to lose a patient, it’s just that now you are losing a person faster. And that does cause stress. ” But lessons have been learned at work. “Every day, we get new studies that help us understand the disease and its progression,” he says. Over time, she has also learned to “go for long periods without food or water, or having to relieve myself to go to the bathroom. This is not to say that it is not difficult or that there are no bad days. “

Initially, the stress was overwhelming when colleagues started getting infected as well. So far, he has known fear, he says, only twice. “When a colleague in the ICU who was working the same shift as me got infected. And again when my breathing fogged the mask and blurred my vision, I had to remove my shield to intubate [the process of inserting a tube through the mouth and then into the airway so as to put him on the ventilator] a patient, so he was in direct contact with the patient. But the effort was worth it when he left our hospital alive, ”he says.

There is also pressure at work when family members are admitted. “Make my 76-year-old uncle understand that his condition was a hindrance. He survived. “Even his own family received the same line, Dr. Jain says.” I had told them there were no guarantees that he would make it out alive, but we will do our best. “

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