- Dr Jagadish Rai had his own clinic and was associated with a nursing home
- Dr Rai had underlying leukemia which made him more vulnerable to COVID-19
- Dr Rai was in hospital for 9 days before he lost the battle against COVID
New Delhi: “Our father derived ultimate pleasure in treating patients and being there for them in their times of need. He was always used to and preferred working long hours; his age or the Novel Coronavirus did not slow him down even during the pandemic. Even in his last days, as he lay on a hospital bed, he answered calls from his patients until breathlessness stole his ability to be coherent. This is the kind of dedication he showed to his profession that made him legendary in the community”, recalled Dr Shipra Rai, daughter of late Dr Jagadish Rai. In October, 70-year-old, Dr Jagadish Rai, an obstetrician and a general practitioner working in a small town in coastal Karnataka for the last 40 years, contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty and succumbed to the disease.
Despite being a senior citizen and having underlying leukemia, Dr Jagadish Rai continued to work six and a half days a week even during a pandemic. The family said that it was his attachment and sense of responsibility towards his patients that made him continue to work in a small setup despite risks to his own health. Dr Rai added,
He has been the primary healthcare provider for many families through generations. He was someone who never took a day off even when he was sick just so his patients wouldn’t suffer.
Dr Rai said that her father’s affection towards his patients drew from a need to help people and the community after watching his father do the same as the village head. Talking about her father’s childhood and the early days of practice, Dr Rai said,
He was from a landed Bunt background and middle of 10 children to his parents. Although his father was a village head of several villages, money was always short in those days, and his father struggled financially to make him a doctor. He was one of the first doctors to start his practice at B.C. Road in Mangalore, Karnataka and had patients come to him from far and wide. He was one of those older generation gentleman doctors who were widely and affectionately referred to just as “Doctor Ji”, never by name. He came a long way in the 40 years that he practiced, from delivering babies on house visits to relatively modern methods in a hospital. He was available to his patients anytime day or night and derived utmost pleasure working and treating patients seven days a week.
Dr Jagadish Rai had his own clinic and was associated with a nursing home close by. He was not posted on COVID duty per se officially but continued seeing patients in his private practice, many of whom were COVID positive, even when a lot of other doctors refused to see them, added Dr Rai.
Since Dr Jagadish Rai was stepping out of the house, was coming in contact with COVID-19 patients and had a high risk of getting the SARS-CoV-2, he would follow basic COVID-19 precautions at home. Dr Jagadish Rai lived with his wife and in order to protect her from COVID-19, he would diligently restrict his social contact and isolate within the family bubble. He would also practise social distancing, hand washing, sanitisation and wear a face mask.
While Dr Jagadish Rai would make every effort to safely work, his family would frequently pressurise him to stop seeing patients given his age and leukemia but he would always. The family’s fear came true when Dr Jagadish Rai contracted Coronavirus from a 28-year-old patient who came to him coughing blood.
He provided the necessary care and tried his best to help the patient but unfortunately, the patient passed away a day after testing positive for COVID 19. A few days later, my father developed symptoms with fever, weakness, unrelenting cough, and shortness of breath. He was first admitted in a ward of a hospital and after three days, due to breathlessness, he was shifted to ICU, said Dr Rai.
Dr Rai also shared that since the death of her father, countless people have come and told the family stories of how Dr Jagadish Rai helped them during a health crisis, saved lives, many times miraculously and how he was a god to them due to his relentless service especially when his patients were in dire need. Many of the patients appreciated Dr Jagadish Rai for having the lowest fee in the town.
My mother has since recounted the story of her asking him multiple times to increase his fees, if not to match what other doctors in the region were charging but to at least come close. Apparently, he always said, God had blessed him with a lot and he wanted people to give what they were comfortable giving and he did not want to grab from those less fortunate than him, recollected Dr Rai.
For Dr Rai, her father was like a god in her life and Dr Rai and her two siblings are immensely proud of their father and for the person he was. In the words of Dr Jagadish Rai’s children, he was,
Fearless, bold and a warrior in his approach to life and love. A man who lived life on his own terms and as well died by them.
While signing off, Dr Shipra Rai made a special request for people to be mindful and considerate of the many sacrifices healthcare workers are making to keep the nation safe. Dr Rai urged the people to practice social distancing protocols until an effective vaccine and/or treatment is in place. She said,
COVID-19 has certainly been a protracted and difficult disease but people seem to have forgotten the severity and the complications that can occur. Most of all everyone seems to have forgotten that while they are being asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing in public places, doctors and healthcare providers have to work in stifling PPE (personal protective equipment) kits and difficult conditions 24×7. They have been forced to stay away from their loved ones with a constant fear that they will take the virus home with them.
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.