Author: Mangala Vishwas Lokhande
In the thirty years of my service as a Nurse, this is the first time a disease scared me and the likes of me. I am, Mangala Vishwas Lokhande, a Senior Nurse at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, popularly known as Sion Hospital in Mumbai, India. This is my story!
As we realised that Covid 19 had already knocked doors of Mumbai, we knew patients would eventually start pouring in our hospital. Our hospital being a government run, centrally situated and in close proximity to the biggest slum in Asia, Dharavi. We knew should the pandemic spread in Dharavi, our hospital will receive an influx of many patients, and so we did!
A meticulous planning ensued! I was designated the task of distributing the PPE kits to my team of Staff Nurses. Perhaps, the biggest challenge for any health-giver serving in India is, shelving ourselves under the PPE kits in the sweltering hot weather. Our nurses uniform required additional layers of the PPE kit. A layered dungaree-like overcoat, N-95 mask which is already thick and to top it up, a regular surgical mask for our mental peace, and of-course, the head gear, the hand gloves! We started looking like human-bots. The mask would make it extremely difficult to breathe. But we knew, we’ve signed up for a noble cause for humanity. This feeling keep us going in our fight against the pandemic.
On a typical day as a Nurse, we work in 8 hours shift. But with the PPE kit on, we had to break the shifts into 4-4- hours. During these 4 hours, we would not risk exposure even for water breaks. While being layered under clothes and masks and all sweaty underneath, our motto was to shift focus towards the virus affected patients. Serving them with food, helping them follow their medical regime, changing their sheets and pillows, helping them with change of clothes, assisting them for anything they needed, and at times, even being a monitor urging them to follow self-discipline and protocols. That’s how a regular working day for a nurse serving covid-19 looks like.
The threat to life caused by this pandemic is real and our biggest challenge has been of urging people to take the disease seriously. You cannot afford to take it too casually. We’ve seen people lose their precious lives owing to their ignorance, casual approach, and delay in seeking medical help. But then, there are also those who followed every instruction given by the Doctors and medical staff and healed completely in no-time. Perhaps the greatest joy for us in this time to wave goodbye to the patients who are Covid-19 free.
Age is considered a factor when allocating duties to serve Covid-19 patients. I served the Covid ward briefly, but I still am a practicing Nurse and a responsible citizen. I live in a community which is so cooperative and welcoming to the nature of my work. After serving the Covid-19 affected, I myself got tested to a negative result, yet, kept myself quarantined in a bedroom. Even today, I keep my mask on 24×7 to protect my family and my neighbourhood.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment comes when after putting our lives at risk and sacrificing our routine family life to serve the society to the best of our abilities, the medical aide workers get accused of not doing enough! The society needs to realise the kind of challenges we face and understand their responsibility of guarding themselves against the disease.
I urge the people of our country to follow the government directives strictly. Maintain social distancing, wear masks when venturing out, wash your hand frequently, get tested without hesitation should you feel unwell! Together we can eradicate the disease completely from our country and spring back to normalcy in no time!