- Pabitra works for 12-15 hours every day and examines 50 samples per day
- Pabitra contracted coronavirus in the line of duty while collecting samples
- After recovering from COVID-19, he donated 2 units of blood for plasma
New Delhi: It has been almost 15 days since Pabitra Das, a 45-year-old senior lab technician working at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), in Guwahati, Assam resumed duty after recovering from COVID-19. He contracted the novel coronavirus in the first week of July and was tested positive on July 5. After recovering from the infection, the frontline warrior donated two units of his blood for plasma on August 11 in order to help in the treatment of critically ill COVID-19 patients.
While speaking with NDTV about his experience of contracting COVID-19, treatment and post-recovery period, Pabitra said that he got the infection even though he followed safety measures and always donned personal protective equipment (PPE) when on duty. He said,
I have no idea how I got the virus because I was extremely careful since the start. I have a four-year-old baby and elderly parents at home. I tried not to make any mistake or take my personal safety for granted. The symptoms that my body exhibited after getting infected were mild. I had a fever and slight cough. I got myself tested and on July 5 I got to know that I have got the disease. I got myself admitted at GMCH immediately and underwent the treatment for 10 days. After I was discharged, I kept myself self-isolated for another 15 days during which I focused on regaining strength through food and light exercises. I then decided to donate plasma and after clearing the mandatory check-ups for the same, on August 11, I donated my plasma.
Pabitra who donated two units of his blood for plasma feels proud to be able to help in the treatment of other patients and do his bit in the fight against COVID-19. He said,
The plasma that I have donated, will save lives of two critically ill COVID-19 patients. This was my biggest motivation. I will donate my plasma again if I can. I believe humanity is the supreme religion of human beings. I urge all who are recovering from COVID-19 to donate their plasma.
Our Heartfelt #Gratitude to Pabitra Das from Hatigaon, Guwahati, #Kamrup Metro District for selflessly donating his #plasma and helping in the fight against #Covid19. #AssamPlasmaHero #SavingLives pic.twitter.com/0mswdNENMg
— NHM_Assam (@nhm_assam) August 13, 2020
While talking about the increased work pressure during the pandemic, Pabitra, who has been working as a lab technician with GMCH for last 16 years said,
Initially when the pandemic started my job was to conduct swab test of the doctors, nurses and other medical staff who were under quarantine and the family members of those found positive with COVID-19. However, when the pandemic grew, the number of patients visiting the hospital and requiring swab tests grew. On average, I conduct about 50 swab tests in a day but there have been days on which I have done over 100 tests as well.
Pabitra’s day at the COVID-19 lab in Gauhati Medical College and Hospital begins around 8 am with unboxing the samples collected for testing, after verifying the patient data details and registering them. Then comes extracting the Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) from the sample and conduct the test. He said that every time he conducts a test, he hopes that the result will be negative. He usually finishes his work by 10 pm.
He further said that since the outbreak, he has been working for at least 12 hours every day which sometimes stretched to 15 hours, while before the pandemic hit the country, he used to work for eight hours per day. He said,
Wearing personal protective equipment and working for 12-15 hours is a very difficult job. This is because PPEs are extremely uncomfortable. One starts sweating profusely within a few minutes of wearing it. But ours is a high-risk job as we handle the samples of body fluids and throat swabs of possible infected persons, so we have no choice but to protect ourselves as much as we can while doing our duties diligently without any errors.
Back at home, Pabitra follows a strict routine. After coming back from work he washes his clothes and disinfects his belongings himself. He then confines himself to a room in the backyard of his house that has an attached bathroom and stays there alone till the next morning before leaving for work. In this way, Pabitra has made sure that no member of his family contracts the virus because of him. He said,
Nobody in my family has got exposed to the disease so far. Since the starting, I have been very cautious about not exposing my family to the virus that I or my belonging/clothes may have picked at work. For this, when at home I have been staying in a room in our backyard. I make sure that nobody comes within six feet around me. My wife leaves my food on a table outside of my temporary accommodation. I live in a joint family of 12 members that include my elderly parents, my son, my wife and families of my two brothers. Because of the strict self-quarantining and discipline that I have been following at home, my family has been able to remain safe from the virus so far.
Pabitra’s 35-year-old wife Mayuri Kakoti Das, said that while she feels immensely proud of her husband’s work, there is also a constant fear in her mind regarding his health. She said to NDTV,
I am very proud of my husband. He is a good man. Every day he is providing sample results and helping patients to get treatment. But, honestly, I also fear for his health. We don’t get to see each other much because he stays in isolation when at home. Last month he sick got infected with COVID-19 and I was shattered. I felt very scared but he told me not to worry. The day he got discharged from the hospital was a great day for me. When he decided to donate plasma, I felt honoured to be his wife. I just wish that he stays safe and don’t get the virus again. Even though our baby doesn’t get to see his father much now, but I am sure he will be very proud to know that his dad played an important role in fighting the pandemic.
According to Pabitra, he along with his team of lab technicians and other health workers have learnt a lot in the last seven months of the pandemic. However, for him, the most important learning has been regarding handling distressed patients and their families. He said,
One of the learnings from the last few months is that as health workers, our duty is not just limited to caring for patient’s physical health but also for their mental health. It is important that we remain calm at all points even when the patients or their family members are being rude. We have to be empathetic and try to calm them down too.
Acknowledging the contribution of Pabitra in the State’s fight against COVID-19, Pomi Baruah, the officer-on-special duty (OSD) at Assam’s National Health Mission said,
Pabitra and many others like him are our pride and assets. The lab technicians have played a pivotal role in helping us tackle the COVID-19 crisis in the state. They are the unsung heroes in this fight. As frontline workers, their contribution will be remembered till posterity.
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.