In India, July 1 is celebrated as National Doctor’s Day in honour of legendary physician, educationist, and the second Chief Minister of West Bengal, late Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. While this day is another occasion for the doctors to humbly rededicate and commit again for saving lives, ease the pain and suffering, it is also the time for everyone to acknowledge the sacrifices that are being made by many exceptionally trained doctors and paramedical staff, dealing with the second wave of Coronavirus pandemic.
Pandemic or not, doctors have always been frontline workers. It is just so, that this noble profession for whatever reason, has been tagged as a symbol of status and pride in our society. Becoming a doctor does not happen overnight. As medicos and even as professionally trained medical experts, we still burn midnight oil, study, research, attend conferences, exchange notes, publish in peer reviewed journals – all with the single motto of saving lives. In the last two years, none of my colleagues including paramedical staff took a day off, heaved a sigh of relief or spent a day relaxing with the family. As a cardiologist, I witnessed a steep increase in cases related to heart ailments owing to various factors including stress, lack of direct consultations and regular tests and instances of blood clots in Covid patients.
Be it cardiac or other speciality, a medical emergency of any kind needs immediate care and in the last two years, the medical fraternity encountered unbelievable challenges even while doing regular procedures. If being zipped in PPE suits for many hours at a stretch is not tough enough, imagine the suffocation caused by N-95 masks and face shields on top of it. While performing procedures like pacemaker insertion, we have to work in very close proximity to the patient’s face and one can imagine the kind of risk involved in it. Working with a face shield is quite challenging as it makes the vision blurry, makes us sweat profusely but we put aside all these, take up the risk and perform our duties diligently.
During this peak of second wave, a colleague of mine from Hyderabad called to discuss a medical case of her patient here in Chennai. When she told me that she was the only person to have survived in the family and had to perform the last rites, my heart broke. I was touched and moved by her commitment towards her patients for saving their lives. We come across many such stories like that, and we keep it to ourselves. I know many doctors who lost their loved ones during the second wave, but they would turn up at work almost immediately, doing their duty. No questions asked.
I work in a government run hospital and let me assure that the treatment provided be it in public or private institutions is all the same. We managed to get beds for all the patients in distress, gave best medical care possible. Besides attending very sick Covid patients, we attended all medical emergencies. One of my patients with various comorbidities and extremely sick wanted to go home, as she was unable to bear the stress. Unable to afford private hospital, she resigned to her fate. But we performed surgery, installed a pacemaker and on the day of discharge, she quietly slipped a paper in my hand. She wrote a poem, appreciating everything we did for saving her life and it moved me emotionally. Though all patients don’t thank us, these kind of sweet, simple gestures from patients and their families is what inspire us to do better every time, we see a patient, scrub in for a surgery and care for them.
We may be medical professionals but there is a family waiting for us too. My daughter, now a third year MBBS student though stood by me and her father Dr U P Srinivasan, a gastrointestinal surgeon, watching us working relentlessly but would occasionally get worried for our safety. She urges us to take care but as a parent and doctor, I know that we are inspiring a young doctor to be, by doing the right thing.
Fortunately, the cases are decreasing but the fear of third wave is already looming large. Do not forget to mask up, maintain social distancing, hand hygiene and getting vaccinated.
Remember the words of Dr K K Agarwal, a renowned cardiologist who lost his life to Corona virus in May, this year. He said in one of the last educational videos on this pandemic, “Picture abhi baaki hai. The show must go on.”
And the show of course will go on. We doctors, paramedics and other frontline workers will keep it going, all for saving lives.
- Dr J Cecily Mary Majella, MBBS, MD (General Surgery), DM (Cardiology), FESC, is a Chief Civil Surgeon, Tamil Nadu Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital, Omandurar Estate, Chennai