- Dr Swarnapali Maity has been in the medical profession for 15 years
- During pandemic, Dr Maity is taking care of seriously ill COVID-19 patients
- Due to lack of manpower, Dr Maity works in both COVID and non-COVID units
New Delhi: 39-year-old Dr. Swarnapali Maity from Kolkata has been in the medical profession for the last 15 years and is currently working as a Senior Medical Officer in the critical care unit of Fortis Hospital in Kolkata. During the Coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Maity’s role is to take care of seriously ill COVID-19 patients with severe acute respiratory distress who need intensive care management. Dr. Maity has been on COVID duty since the end of March and she believes that COVID-19 has changed everything – from lifestyle to mindset. Talking about the changes the pandemic has brought in her personal life, Dr. Maity said,
Earlier, I used to meet my friends frequently, call them at home with their families and children and go out. For the last 6 months, I have not met my friends and family members. I have been in touch with them only through video calls. I used to be a voracious reader, travel, work on my singing and cooking skills, but now I don’t do any of these things. Everything has converged to only one thing that is ‘let’s survive first’.
Dr. Maity has handled approximately 300 patients in over six months but the fear of contracting the virus herself and succumbing to the disease still looms large. Dr. Maity calls the fear as one of the biggest challenges she as a frontline warrior has faced. She said,
There is a fear of getting infected by the virus and of course, the thought that what if it turns worse and what if I die.
But the determination to treat COVID-19 patients and fight the pandemic for the nation is more than the fear. Dr. Maity informed that to protect one from contracting the disease in the line of duty, medical professionals religiously take all precautions and adhere to basic classical infection control protocol measures. She said,
Proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE) is the key while working in a COVID unit. We have been trained and are reminded of the steps by our wonderful and vigilant nursing officers and the infection control department.
Dr. Maity follows equally stringent precautionary measures at home to protect her husband, 9-year-old daughter and house help. While talking to NDTV, Dr. Maity elaborated on how she disinfects herself after reaching home from COVID duty and maintains distance from the family while living in the same house. She said,
We live in a three bedroom apartment and I seclude myself in one of the bedrooms with an attached bathroom. At the entrance of our flat, we have marked an area as a ‘do not touch’ zone. A bucket full of soap water, sanitiser and a garbage bin are always present there. When I enter the house, I remove all my clothes and put them in a bucket. Till the time I have taken a shower, I don’t see or talk to my daughter. I have asked her to remain locked inside her room. I step out of my room only for food and ensure that I have a mask on my face otherwise. I don’t sit and eat with my family directly. My house help keeps the food outside my room, on a stool and I eat inside my room. After eating, I wash the utensils with soap and then put it back on the stool. I don’t even come near to my daughter or hug her for several days in a row especially when I am working in a COVID unit.
Earlier, Fortis Hospital was following a schedule where doctors and nurses on COVID duty would work for a week and isolate for the following week. But, now, since some of the doctors have got the infection and are either admitted to a hospital or quarantined at home, the isolation period has been eliminated. Dr. Maity added,
We work in COVID and non-COVID unit alternatively. I work 48 hours a week, divided into shifts. Sometimes the working hours get extended because of less manpower. Fortunately, so far, no causality has been reported among hospital staff.
Further talking about her work as a COVID warrior and what keeps her motivated, Dr. Maity shared an anecdote and said,
There was a woman who survived the COVID-19 infection but her husband died of the disease. When the woman left the hospital, she handed me a letter thanking the entire COVID unit for taking care of her. Her body language was poignant and she was full of calmness despite her extreme grief. I admired the way she accepted the fact that her 55-year-old husband who was absolutely healthy just three weeks back is no more. She understood that this is an unknown disease and doctors and all healthcare workers are fighting day in and day out. Her letter is shining like a bright light of never ending encouragement in our COVID unit notice board. I get strength every time I read the letter.
Dr. Maity also informed that to overcome the stress at work, the doctors discuss their lives, hobbies, family, cinema, politics, and current affairs. The team often plays light, melodious music at the duty station and pull each other’s leg and laugh as ‘laughter is the best stress buster’ for them.
Dr. Maity also spoke about the challenges and stress faced by the family of a COVID-19 patient and how doctors try to compose them. Dr. Maity often relates to her patients and their families as even her husband had got COVID-19 and she understands the situation from her personal experience. She said,
The time spent in the hospital is stressful for both the patient and family as they cannot meet each other. We have a ward phone which is used only inside the COVID unit. If a patient is in clinical status to talk, we ensure he/she interacts with at least once a day. During rounds, it’s very grueling for the patients to talk to people covered in PPE suits from top to bottom. The fogged up goggles and hazy face shield make it even more difficult for patients to see us; yet we try to cheer them by talking about their improved reports, oxygen levels, that they are doing well and the worst has probably passed.
Dr. Maity believes that India is yet to witness COVID-19 peak and needs to be ready with the resources, healthcare infrastructure and public awareness. Dr. Maity also suggested increasing testing and gave advice to people facing COVID fatigue. She said,
Remember, this too shall pass. Kindly be patient and think about your elders and chronically ill family members. You might bring the virus back home and transmit it to them.
While signing off, Dr. Maity urged to follow government guidelines, wear a mask, and adopt for early diagnosis as and when there is a suggestive symptom. She said,
Social distancing in our hugely populated country is not easy but a mask can stop the disease spread. Stay low, stay grounded, stay home, avoid public places, and going out for party or shopping. The new normal that includes wearing a face mask and ensuring hand hygiene is here to stay for at least two to three years.
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.