How Doctors Combat Covid’s Emotional Toll


Doctors from Delhi’s LNJP Hospital spoke to NDTV

New Delhi:

Across the country an army of medical professionals – some in hospitals and clinics with limited resources and others struggling to deal with an avalanche of cases in their areas – risk their lives every day in the fight to defeat the novel coronavirus.

Clad in bulky PPEs (personal protective equipment), they do so while relying heavily on much-needed emotional and physical support of families and loved ones.

Going home at the end of a long day, however, is not as simple as it sounds.

At the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital in Delhi, the biggest COVID-19-dedicated facility in the national capital, staff work two-week shifts after which they must quarantine themselves for a week before being tested for the virus. Only if this test returns negative can they go home… and the process repeats after their next two-week shift.

And, it turns out, these heroes in PPEs are rather like us when it comes to whiling away time in quarantine – they binge-watch Netflix shows and play video games.

But it is vital that they do go home when able to, as Dr Farah Hussain, co-in-charge of the LNJP’s Covid ICU, tells NDTV: “Apart from the teams at the hospital, the people back home have kept us sane in these times”.

As trained healthcare workers, they are equipped to handle medical crises. What is new in this pandemic, which has claimed over 37,000 lives in India and nearly seven lakh worldwide, is the emotional toll – one they have faced every day for over months now.

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Doctors from Delhi’s LNJP Hospital spoke to NDTV

Since Covid patients are required to isolate themselves, the doctors and nurses who attend to them are often their only human contact. And when the more seriously ill patients die, the same doctors and nurses are often with them in their final moments.

And it can be difficult to cope with that sometimes.

“I called up a son to inform him about his father’s death and he just went on crying during the call. I didn’t know what to do. I was clueless. What do you say to someone at that moment?” Dr Keerthy, a second-year PG, asks.

Dr Kush Sharma, a senior resident, says it is heart-breaking to see patients stop eating and refuse to see family members when possible. He has even fed patients with his own hands in situations like this, offering hope and solace in their difficult times.

“There was one elderly patient who, while being discharged after recovery, blessed me and said I would always be in his prayers,” he told NDTV.

Others tell NDTV of having to overcome double doses of mental trauma – caring for Covid patients and waiting on the results of their own tests.

“If the report comes out positive, then you don’t know what is going to happen to you. We see patients in bad condition in the ICU and we know we could end up like them,” Dr Amardeep, another second-year PG, says.

And then there are some doctors, like Dr Siddharth Sisodia, who sacrifice any chance to meet family – so that those at home can be protected. Dr Sisodia, a senior resident, has not met his wife, who is five months pregnant, since his Covid duties began.

“I hope everything goes fine and she gets through this with a healthy child,” he said.

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