New Delhi: “The show must go on”, said 62-year-old Dr KK Aggarwal, the Former President of the Indian Medical Association and a Padma Shri recipient, in one of his last videos. Dr Aggarwal died of COVID-19 on the night of May 17 this year and soon his video where he declared that he represents the collective consciousness of the medical profession went viral on social media. In an attempt to educate the citizens about the infectious disease, COVID care and bust myths, the cardiologist had created hundreds of videos.
Talking about the work of Dr Aggarwal during the pandemic, his daughter, Naina Aggarwal Ahuja said,
He always said, ‘it is the duty of every doctor to be available at any point for his patients and to save as many lives as possible’. Fondly remembered as the ‘Doctor with a Stethoscope’, he became a household name during the pandemic. He impacted the lives of over 100 million people using the power of digital media. People needed a reassuring voice, someone who could decode the COVID-19 virus for them, help them find ways to cope with it, and also assure that things will get better. He will always be remembered for his selflessness and love for the medical profession.
Dr KK Aggarwal echoed the spirit of many healthcare workers across the country who have been working relentlessly and selflessly to treat, educate and vaccinate people against COVID-19 that has so far claimed close to 4 lakh lives (3.99 lakh as on July 1).
On National Doctors’ Day 2021 that calls to ‘Save The Saviours’ let’s look back at some of the inspiring stories and work of some of the COVID warriors who lost their lives while trying to save lives of others.
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, setting another example of the selfless service that doctors and other healthcare workers offer. 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. Dr 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, who were denied medical attention elsewhere, shared Dr Rai’s daughter.
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.
26-year-old, Anas Mujahid, a junior Resident Doctor at Delhi’s COVID dedicated Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital is another COVID warrior India lost during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Mujahid had minor symptoms like sore throat and tested positive in an antigen test at the hospital. In a rare case of sudden progression, he collapsed soon after and died due to intracranial bleeding. He is survived by his parents and four siblings. Talking about the sudden demise of Dr Mujahid, his friend and colleague Dr Aamir Sohail said,
It was shocking for everyone who knew him. He had no comorbidity. He was a very dedicated doctor. He was planning to get the jab in the next few days.
According to the Indian Medical Association (IMA), India has lost 798 doctors (as on June 29) during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, since April first week. Of this, highest number of deaths (128) have been reported from Delhi followed by 115 from Bihar. In the first wave of the COVID-9 pandemic, 736 doctors died, reports IMA. While the IMA data suggests that over 1,500 doctors have died due to COVID since the start of the pandemic, the actual numbers may be far higher as the IMA only keeps a record of its 3.27 lakh members whereas India has over 12 lakh doctors.
The COVID-19 pandemic, especially the second wave has distastrous across the country. During the peak of the second wave in April and May this year, many young people contracted the disease and a similar trend was seen among doctors as well. According to Dr Jayesh Lele, General Secretary, IMA, most of the doctors were young, in the age group of 30-35.
Talking about the death of the doctors and how we can protect our frontline workers, Dr Lele said,
The working condition of doctors, especially in government hospitals, is extremely bad. They have to work overtime, 12-14 hours a day. During the pandemic, doctors are being exposed to ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and patients for a long time as a result of which doctors contracting COVID-19 are reporting a severe disease with a high viral load. Therefore, even those who were vaccinated (partially or fully) succumbed to the disease. Secondly, the violence against doctors is demotivating and morally and socially incorrect. After being beaten up, many doctors have stopped going to clinics and hospitals because they are scared. This year, with the theme, ‘save the saviours’, we are urging the government to provide good working conditions to the doctors and declare hospitals as safe zones.
Further talking about how an individual can contribute in protecting doctors, frontline warriors in the fight against the COVID-19, Dr Lele emphasised on the word ‘respect’. He said, respect your family doctor or treating doctor and added,
Don’t call them (doctors) God but give them an opportunity to treat you properly. Subsequently, develop good confidence with your treating doctor; trust them and the fact that they are doing the right treatment.
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.