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Testing times for Doctors before their hopes die during COVID-19


Since March this year, the Covid-19 pandemic spreading its tentacles in Vizag, like elsewhere in the country, and while the number of cases may have dipped in the city, the emotional trauma and sudden deaths that the frontline medical healthcare workers experience continue to haunt them. From attending to the patient’s demand to listening to their last wishes and regrets, doctors are witnessing hundreds of dreams and hopes die before them.

In the last week of July, a 50-year-old Santosh, an engineer was beside himself with joy when Dr. Kumar, an intensivist who treated him, said “Family comes first to me and I want to spend time with my son once I discharged from the hospitals. I know my priorities” Dr. Kumar recounted his patient’s words. Santosh was a fit man with no vices or co-morbidities. With the situation beyond control, when he came with a fever, we put him on a ventilator. After recovering well in time and got off the ventilator and he would talk to me about his family and regrets about not spending enough time with his teenage children” Dr. Kumar told to Hello Vizag.

Spending five days in the hospital and was all set to turn his life around. Within hours after we informed him about his discharge from the hospital, he became breathless, suffered a cardiac arrest, and died on the same night, “said the doctor, who works in a corporate hospital. Santosh was one of the many cases in the last few months that left Dr. Kumar to overcome a patient he knew for just a few weeks. “I battered totally. Whatever best treatment in our knowledge, we offered to help him and it still was not enough. What an irony, death kissed without saying goodbye to his children,” he lamented.

The entire country and across the cites, Covid-19 had brought even the hardened medical professionals to tears as they came to terms with their inability to save patients despite employing all their knowledge and resources. For young doctors at the age of 28 and 30 years, it was the suddenness of patients dying within minutes of coming for treatment that proved to be horrific. Venkatesh, another patient a 40 years old, who came with a symptom of breathlessness died in 30 minutes before we could even begin the Covid-19 protocol,” said Dr. Srinivas. Despite the number of months of such cases, it is still a shock to the system,” he added. Yet the most emotionally draining instances, he said, is when a family gets admitted to the hospital but only some of them leave the hospital alive.

In the month of August, a couple in their late fifties were admitted together and we had them on beds beside each other in an open ward. But, one fine morning, the woman’s health began to suddenly deteriorate. She was suffering in front of her better half. It would have been so traumatizing for him, said Dr. Srinivas. When we removed her body from the bed, he broke down and no one to even consoles him. Though he recovered from Covid-19 physically, the emotional toll it took on him is indescribable,” he added.

Far from regular illnesses, the doctors pointed out that patients treated for Covid-19 are in the hospital for a week to sometimes even 50 days if they are on the ventilator. We the doctors only see and a bond is formed because they need the emotional strength we provide. I have hugged patients and held their hands just to get them through the day, said Dr. Kumar. But when things go wrong, the emotional toll is terrible, he added.

Speaking to Hello Vizag, Dr. Krishna Babu, an ICU anesthetist at a private hospital in the city, said the trauma of observing people die doesn’t fade. Since April, he carried the last words of patients to their distressed families, who refuse to accept their deaths. On September 12, a 27-year-old engineer was admitted with a mild fever and we are confident that he would make it since he was young.

Doctors were his point of contact with the family members. Indeed, it was difficult to tell his family when he got sicker and had to be shifted to the ICU. “Doctors in the ICU told him that he will get better when he asked me if he will ever leave. We even gave him that confidence and we spoke every day. Alas, when he died, it made all the doctors question their own efficiency and ability to treat patients,” he said.

Telling the reality to the patient’s parents, Dr. Babu said, was the most difficult thing he had to do. In fact, the very doctor remembered breaking down as the young man said his last words- “I really love my parents, please tell them”. I was completely shattered, the doctor said, adding “since then, the deaths have only been mounting.

The medical fraternity, who were earlier seeing five to seven deaths a month, have now been forced to deal with 17 to 20 in the same period. Giving information to the families who were not even allowed to stay by the side of the patients, they said, has been a battle in itself.

Doctors opine that deaths stopped marriages, left children orphaned and families shattered. On being trauma, they say will stay with them. Really, it has been overwhelming, said Dr. Babu. Every day, I find myself crying over these unknown people’s death. In fact, they were not supposed to die. Virus-like Corona should not have killed them. With heavy heart, we doctors, find this hard to accept.

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