The country is witnessing a fewer number of corona cases in the last few weeks, but it doesn’t mean that we are completely safe. Bina C Thomas, a nurse working in Chennai shares her views on how things changed between March to December and why we should still exercise restrain

Bina C Thomas, a 28-year-old nurse from Kerala, currently serving in Chennai narrates how attending patients suffering from coronavirus for a minimum of 6 hours and even more daily, has transformed her outlook towards life and why she loves her profession a lot more now.

I am from a village near Kottayam, Kerala. Having brought up in a hamlet, with little or no facilities, I was no stranger to living within the available means. My native place is a nondescript village on the geographical map of Kerala itself but is dotted by many kind and good Samaritans, always willing to help, share whatever little they possess, lend a shoulder for those in trouble and need – all without expecting anything in return.
Treating COVID Patients

*All Images Shown Are For Representational Purposes Only.
The small church in the village where the Sunday congregation would take place perhaps stemmed that desire in me to help, assist and lead the sick people to health. Even as children, with our palms tightly clenching the rosary we used to pray for those suffering from various ailments in our village and for world peace. And without any second thought, I chose Nursing as a profession soon after my schooling.

I studied B.Sc Nursing in the nearby town, before finishing postgraduation in Kozhikode. The duties in the government hospitals were initially tough, as we would witness severely sick patients, fighting for their lives but those experiences helped me to handle super emergencies, without fear and doubt.

I moved to Chennai after my training and joined a hospital here, which is currently serving COVID-19 patients. When we first heard about this virus emerging in China, we just hoped that it should never reach India. But, when Kerala reported the first case, my heartbeat skipped. My state in the last few years battled many storms – Nipah virus, floods and we are still limping back to normalcy. When I spoke to my seniors in Kozhikode Medical Hospital, they too expressed similar concerns but we all knew that it’s time to get ready for the next big thing.

In no time, the cases started growing and the hospital where I am employed too got listed under medical facilities treating coronavirus patients. Soon after the orders came, we transformed one full floor to treat COVID-19 patients and a special team of doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, lab technicians, X-ray technicians, ambulance drivers, janitors have been set up. The floor has been cordoned off, the access is just limited to patients and the medical experts.

The number of patients in the first two weeks of March were not many but the numbers rising. Despite the lockdown, the positive cases across the country started growing exponentially and our hospital too started witnessing patients walking in with the symptoms related to coronavirus.

The government and hospital authorities laid down strict guidelines to all the staff members attending the patients and they are still in place. We used to initially wear masks and rub sanitizers on palms regularly, but now we completely cover ourselves in Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) from top to toe.

Since we are all dressed alike it is tough to recognise faces. Never mind, we hardly have any time to talk and we just identify the person by the designation on their suit – doctor, nurse, lab staff, janitor etc.

Many patients in the ward constantly exhibit depression-like traits, they keep on asking us various questions. Few will be very painful even to answer like what will happen to their body after they die, who will take care of their family. But at the same time, we are also coming across a few fighters. It is heartening to see them talking positively, sharing their life experiences and some elderly assure that ‘this too shall pass.’

Working in PPE is a major task, as it causes a lot of discomforts while executing duties. Owing to the lack of PPEs, we cannot remove it within 6 hours, even for going to the bathroom and I cannot even reveal the ordeal while menstruating. The gloves and goggles would not let us access the vein of the patient easily to administer intravenous medications, forget about doing other jobs.

Yet, we abide by all rules, write down case reports, keep a track of each patient every second and forget about our families. I am not yet married but I feel very sorry for my colleagues missing their children, family and working hard to save lives.

Despite, all these we eagerly await for the blood reports of patients to see if any of them got ‘ÇOVID-19 Negative’ result. If a patient gets discharged we experience a major relief, but can’t do as there are many more waiting to get admitted and treated.

The six-hour duty used to get extended till last month and we never argued about timings. The top priority is saving lives and containing the infection. With fewer cases now, our postings are not extended beyond 6 hours and thank God, for that! Though we see fewer cases these days, it’s not time to relax. One has to be even more vigilant, wear masks, carry hand sanitizers and ensure social distancing. Agree or disagree, this is the new normal till we all get vaccinated and start having pre-corona lifestyle.

Be it doctors, nurses, support staff and janitors – all our lives matter but the ethics, morals and the oath we have taken before taking up this noble profession come first. It is scary to learn that much medical staff are also turning positive, few of them are being harassed by their landlords and even by non-supportive family members.

The other day, a colleague was mentioning that World Health Organization has dedicated this year for nurses and midwives across the world but today, let me tell you that all of us including the cleaning staff, janitors deserve a huge round of applause.

I am currently living in a facility provided by my employer and I get picked up and dropped by the hospital drivers. I come home tired, sleepless, scared but not losing hope. I talk to my parents daily, assure them of my wellbeing.

The recent news that a vaccine is soon going to be a reality is giving all of us a major hope. With my rosary tightly clenched in my palms, I pray for forgiveness and ask God to save this world from this deadly virus. After all, we all seem to have learnt our lessons and we already paid a major price.

And today, even as I write this, I feel super proud of this opportunity to serve the sick. I love and respect my job even more and next time, you see medical staff, please do not forget to thank them!