- 24-year-old Roji George has been working as a nurse for three years
- Ms George was on COVID duty at Fortis Hospital for three months
- At COVID duty, Ms George used to work for a week and rest for eight days
New Delhi: There is always a first time and the first time is always special. The outbreak of Novel Coronavirus has provided many ‘firsts’ to 24-year-old Roji George, a nurse at Fortis Hospital in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj. Resonating with the special feeling of ‘first’ and sharing her experience of working as a COVID warrior and battling the pandemic from the frontlines, Ms George said, “This pandemic is a life-time experience and I pray that this situation never comes again. While working on the frontline we witnessed the pain of families unable to meet their patients. Even after discharge from the hospital, patients have to continue to be in isolation. This whole experience has taught me to value life despite all the problems and to cherish and appreciate whatever we have in our life.”
Ms George, a native of Kerala, has been in the medical profession for three years now. Her fight against the SARS-CoV-2 began on May 27 when she was deputed in a COVID ward to look after COVID-19 patients. Ms George was on COVID duty for three months until she was moved to ICU on September 1. It is only then she met her family. Talking about where she was staying all this while, Ms George said,
We were provided a separate area in our nursing hostel to stay after COVID duty hours. At work, I followed all the guidelines and practised the lessons imparted to us during our training sessions on how to handle COVID patients. This is one of the reasons I am safe even after three months of COVID duty.
To ensure the well-being of their medical staff, Fortis has a policy under which Ms George worked for seven days for six hours a day and was given eight days rest before resuming work. She believes that this break coupled with activities like yoga helped her deal with stress at work. Elaborating on the activities, Ms George said,
We were provided mentally engaging games to play, quizzes to participate; yoga and mental health sessions were organised for us. Food is my stress buster and we were provided with our favourite food in the hostel. These are small things but they really helped.
Ms George agrees that it is difficult to battle COVID-19 especially when you are away from your family but she found her home away from home in her colleagues. She said,
Our nurses are from various parts of India and during the isolation, we grew fond of each other. We got to know their families, bumped into the frame when they were having video calls with their family, opened more and talked more. I am glad to have a team of colleagues who laugh with us even at a time of stress. It wasn’t easy to see the smile through personal protective equipment (PPE) kit but we could feel the smiles behind those masks.
Further talking about the challenges that come with wearing PPE for six hours straight, Ms George said, initially, it was difficult but after a week, the body gets used to the additional layer. She also said that being in PPE was made easier by the nursing education department that regularly educated nurses and doctors on the correct way of wearing and doffing of PPE kit. She added,
The team created a video for us on how to use a PPE kit, self-explanatory posters were put up to remind us of the precautions to take while wearing and discarding a PPE.
Talking about how many patients she handled during the course of her COVID duty, Ms George said she doesn’t have a count of it but definitely remembers the first COVID-19 patient who lost his life and the first patient who defeated COVID-19.
The first patient we lost to COVID wasn’t well when he was admitted and his condition deteriorated gradually. Even after all our efforts, we lost him. However, there was another patient who fought the virus for a month and defeated COVID-19. It did raise our hopes and spirits, shared Ms George.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, medical workers have got an additional job – to look after their patients not just physically but mentally as well. COVID patients are neither allowed to meet their families nor have a mobile phone with them. What adds to this is the fear of developing a serious condition. Explaining how she motivates patients and supports them, Ms George said,
Other than providing medical care we talk to our patients. We make sure that those who can walk get to interact with their family via a video call from a dedicated room. We take an extra step for patients who are unable to communicate with their families. We place their family photo beside them; on occasions like birthday, anniversaries or festivals we make sure to wish them on behalf of the family. In challenging cases, we say prayers in front of patients and continue to believe that we can heal them.
Before signing off, Ms George urged people to follow COVID-19 precautionary and preventive measures issued by the government and said,
You have got one life, treasure it. Don’t take your health lightly. It doesn’t matter how old you are, focus on eating and living a healthy life. Also, the Coronavirus crisis is still looming large. Don’t let your guard down; if you do so, you can infect many more.
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.