"It would not be wrong if we say that Covid has completely changed the medical scenario of the world," says Kaveri Das, a 32-year-old nurse serving at a Covid hospital in Guwahati.
It has been 18 months that India has been fighting this deadly disease. Many have lost their lives and many have lost lives of their near and dear ones.
Life has not been easy for anyone during this phase. Be it the medical staff serving at different organizations or the little children who are forced to stay at homes and do schooling from homes.
With an inquisitive mind and a wish to study the life of a nurse during Covid times, Fit Northeast approached Mrs Kaveri Das, who is offering her dedicated service at a Covid hospital in Guwahati.
Fit Northeast: Hello Mrs Kaveri. First of all, a big salute to you and to each and everyone who has been working dedicatedly to save many lives. Can we know more about how and when your journey at the Covid hospital started?
Kaveri Das: First of all I express my gratitude to Fit Northeast and take the opportunity to welcome this new portal. As its name suggests, it is something unique in the medical and wellness field.
Since 2017, I have been serving as a staff nurse at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital. It was by the later part of March 2020, when we were told that one of the old hospitals in Guwahati will be transformed to accommodate and treat all the Covid patients that we understood that Covid was spreading in our state and people were in need of medical help. Then the offer to serve in the Covid hospitals came to us. Many of us did not wish to join since the risk of life was involved. I and some of my friends said yes and this is how we got involved in the service of the Covid patients.
Fit Northeast: How was the preparation to start this new way of work?
During all these months from the starting of our duties, the only thing which has motivated us is that we believe that we are serving humanity and it is our connection with God in a way.
Kaveri Das: Initially, when I said it to my family members, they got a little scared but still understood that I could not leave my job as it was already a hard time and many people were even losing their jobs. At that time, I ….. Not only me, in fact everyone who planned to serve in this profession had to go through a good mental preparation to be ready to face any situation boldly. Those situations might be anything like death, pain of people (be it physical or mental), the pressure of the family members of the admitted people and many more.
Fit Northeast: After planning to opt to serve in Covid hospitals in particular, what kind of social challenges did you face?
Kaveri Das: The biggest problem was that we got very less leave. As there was very less number of nurses or any other medical helpers, we had to do a continuous 9 hours duty at a stretch. Our duty hours were from 7 AM to 2PM, 2 PM to 9 PM and the last shift was from 9 PM to 7 AM in the next morning. We had to accommodate in any one shift. Another social problem which most of the nurses and ward boys had to deal with was their landlords. Most of us are from villages and stay at rents. At times out landlords and landladies indirectly try to say that we should keep ourselves quarantine after every duty. But we know that it is next to impossible. Some are extremely supportive and encourage us to work but some had objections. At that point of time, we feel that we are serving society and when we hear such types of things, it hurts somewhere but it is ok because everyone has their own insecurities.
In some cases, it also becomes a little difficult to deal with some people/patients as they keep on coming and complaining to us about some silly things. Like the food which was served to them was not tasty, the washrooms were not clean all the time.
But in most of the cases, they realize that as there was a loss of taste and smell due to Covid, so they failed to relish their food. Similarly regarding the washrooms, we try to keep it clean as much as possible by applying phenyl, Dettol and other disinfectants to keep it clean, but in some cases, people do not follow proper ethics while using the washrooms. They urinate and don't flush. As it is a Covid hospital, so in order to restrict the entry of unnecessary people (except of something like an emergency), we try to do everything as much as possible on our own. The ward boys or male nurses sometimes clean the washrooms(prior to going homes after their duty ends), they even sweep and mop the floors, do small repair related work. The female nurses are mainly associated with looking after the patients, registering and keeping a track of number of patients.
Fit Northeast: What kinds of problems are faced on a physical level?
Kaveri Das(smiles): The biggest problem is our costume. The PPE kit which also protects us, at the same time gives us a lot of stress. When we say about the PPE kit, it is not only about the white robe which we wear but it is a complete set which even includes the head cap and the face shield.
It is like a nightmare in summers as it's extremely hot but in the winters sometimes we even feel warm(smiles). On a serious note, the biggest stress is that once we wear it in the beginning of our duty, we cannot remove it until our duty finishes. It even makes us feel suffocating at times but then again, there is no other way out. We cannot even go to washrooms, not even use the washroom during our period days. There is always a tension of staining. As we work in a highly infected area, so we even refrain from opening our masks and drinking water, which becomes the biggest challenge in the summers. The PPE kit even makes us feel dizzy at times as the body right from head to toe stays completely covered. There is negligible space for the skin to breadth.
During all these months from the starting of our duties, the only thing which has motivated us is that we believe that we are serving humanity and it is our connection with God in a way. We feel happy for those people who recover under our treatment and go back home. We feel equally sad at the deaths of people as they also become our family members from the moment they get admitted to the hospital.