As she enters the ward of Masina Hospital in Mumbai, Bindhu Manoj stops to utter a silent prayer. It is 7.00 am, and she is seconds away from starting her shift inside the Covid-19 ICU. Covered head to toe in protective wear, the sister-in-charge sets about attending to the critically ill patients battling the novel coronavirus.
Manoj begins with a basic health check of all the patients in the ward. She tells Outlook, “Being a nurse is routine work but during such testing times and emergencies, we are the frontline responsible care providers. We support not just patients, but also help their families.”
“Covid-19 is considered to be dangerous and it threatens the lives of several people. In all other diseases when a person gets admitted in the hospital -- relatives, friends, and family are allowed to visit and support the sick person, however, in Covid-19 the patient gets isolated from family and society.”
As the shift progresses, Manoj’s back starts hurting, but she carries on with her work. “Be a six hours shift or the 12-hours night shift, work never stops in the ICU,” she says with a smile on her tired face.
On being asked if she misses meeting her family, spending time with them, Manoj gets teary-eyed and skips the question. She starts talking about how patients feel depressed as they have to stay away from their families. She says, “They are not allowed to meet their loved ones and the situation is depressing for them and takes a toll on their health – So in the hospital, we have to support the patient by talking to them about their improvement and how they can soon meet their families.”
“They cannot even see our faces as we all are covered in PPE suits. Counseling them is immensely important and can help them to recover. It also helps in stabilising their condition.”
Maharashtra has been battling the second wave of Covid-19, and it is the efforts of these invisible faces -- nurses like Manoj who are working to help people recover. “We have to face challenging situations when there’s an elderly patient with multiple health problems like diabetes, hypertension, and, of course, age-related issues. Not just that, there are times when we have many patients and are short of staff to provide sufficient care to the patient,” Manoj says while talking about handling unforeseen situations at the hospital.
Sometimes unavailability of medicines, Manoj says is a challenge. “Recently unavailability of bed, ventilator, oxygen cylinders, and other utilities challenged us.”
The PPE she wears gets stifling by the time her shift ends. “We work the entire day wearing PPE and there are days when we have to stretch our shift without food or water.”
“It’s heartbreaking to see people we had been nursing for days die. The only joy during this difficult time is to see a critically sick patient move from ICU to the Covid general ward,” she says.
“Being with my family – Husband, son, and daughter is what makes me happy,” Manoj finally answers the question after being insisted.
Manoj, rightly points out that the nurses care the least for themselves but are the selfless caretakers of others in the society.” I am very proud of being a nurse because I can serve the society in this pandemic situation,” she concludes.
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