- Dr Kundan Chaurasia has been working with COVID patients since March 25
- To protect his family from COVID, Dr Chaurasia often stays back at hospital
- Dr Chaurasia believes that early diagnosis is the key to treating patients
New Delhi: “Once you spend some time in the COVID ward you have this strange feeling that you are carrying the virus all over yourself. Initially, I was paranoid about taking the virus home and infecting my family,” says Dr Kundan Chaurasia, in charge of a COVID ward at Peerless Hospital in Kolkata. The fear of contracting the Novel Coronavirus and passing it on to his family is so high that Dr Chaurasia often stays back at the hospital. On days when he gets bored of the hospital, he goes back to his den – a separate room in his home.
At home, I have captured a room and marked it as my territory and I isolate myself there. These days, I talk to my nine-year-old daughter mostly on WhatsApp. The last time I met her was on my birthday (August 8) and that meeting also happened after almost two months; we met on her birthday in June, recalls 40-year-old Dr Chaurasia, Consultant Physician.
Dr Chaurasia has been in the medical practice for 10 years and is currently working as a medicine specialist in a COVID ward. His fight against the Coronavirus pandemic began with the nationwide lockdown on March 25, announced in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, Dr Chaurasia has been working seven days a week.
Before the COVID era, we had proper working hours like 9 AM to 5 PM but now the word ‘shift’ or ‘designated working hours’ do not exist in our dictionary. We have to be present at all times. Usually, I work from 9 AM to 8 PM but again, we are always on our toes. One phone call and we rush to the hospital or address the concerns over a call. Our phone keeps ringing at night and we have become used to it. When we talk about patients, in the first month of my life as a COVID warrior I would get to see some four to five patients every day but since the last couple of months, I have been seeing at least 50 patients every day, tells Dr Chaurasia.
Dr Chaurasia believes that team work has helped him keep a check on every patient and sail through these trying times. He makes sure that everyone in his team – four Resident Medical Officers (RMOs) and a group of nurses – is actively involved in patient management.
Further talking about the challenges that come with working as a COVID warrior, Dr Chaurasia says,
The biggest challenge that I have faced over the last few months is controlling my fear of contracting the disease in the line of duty. The fear of catching the virus keeps popping up in my mind every now and then.
He says that when you work in a COVID unit, stress tags along. The fear of a virus is one but what adds to that stress and takes away mental peace is workload, the frustration that comes on losing a patient to the hands of death and playing the role of a communicator between patients and their family. Talking more about the same, Dr Chaurasia says,
The patients don’t get any visitors, the family members don’t get to see their patients so we have to be the means of communication between them. I remember once we had a COVID positive couple. Luckily, their three-year-old daughter was safe and at home with her extended family. But the couple was always worried about their daughter. So, every day I would call that little girl who had no understanding of COVID. Initially, she would pick up the call thinking it’s her father and would soon get disappointed. Later she realised that COVID is some kind of flu and the doctor uncle is looking after her parents. Unfortunately, this story had a sad ending, the couple died. So, all these things take a toll on our psychological well-being.
To fight stress at work, the team tries to keep a harmonious working environment. Dr Chaurasia tries a lot of relaxing techniques but he believes that at the end of the day one has to trust their natural stress relieving abilities to take care of the situation.
He feels that working as a frontline warrior is more challenging for his resident doctors, nurses, and ward boys who have to be in the personal protective equipment almost all day long. He says,
PPE is like a raincoat that covers every single part of our body. With that, we have to wear N-95 mask and it should fit our face tightly. If we are able to breathe properly it means we have not worn the mask well. We also have to wear huge goggles on our faces. Despite having an anti-fog coating, our glasses get fogged up. On top of this, it is summer season and while treating COVID patients central air conditioning is not allowed. We have to maintain negative pressure ventilation so that potentially contaminated air does not move out. Together all these things make wearing PPE a herculean task. Within five minutes of getting into PPE, we start sweating. I have to be in it two and a half hours or so, basically till the time I take rounds. After that I am in my cabin, checking patients’ reports, x-rays and doing other stuff. But it’s the nurses, ward boys, and RMOs, who have to survive in that PPE for eight hours or even more.
Despite all this Dr Chaurasia is optimistic about winning the battle against COVID-19. He trusts that with proper precautions we can beat the virus and urges people to follow precautionary measures – staying indoors, stepping out only when it is necessary and wearing a mask when in the public sphere. He adds,
There is no reason to feel that sooner or later all of us will get infected. If you take precautions you can evade the virus. And if you develop any symptom, get tested. Like every other disease, COVID is best treated in the early stage, when the disease is mild. We should not let a mild COVID change into a severe one just because of a delay in diagnosis. After seven months into the pandemic, we have a lot of medicines and treatment modalities to help a patient fight COVID.
Dr Chaurasia also suggests COVID patients to not panic and worry about being harassed by neighbours and family and dying. He says,
Patients believe that suddenly their oxygen levels will drop and they will die. I want to tell them that majority of the patients recover. Look at the next bed patient recovering and going home. Just stay positive and you will be fine soon.
Before signing off, Dr Chaurasia shared his takeaway from this battle and said,
The pandemic has clearly shown us that no magic is going to solve our problems; we must use science to solve our problems and work hard to fight the virus.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.