When the pandemic had just begun the world was scared and confined to their houses. In these trying times the medical fraternity rose to the occasion to protect mankind. As it got clearer that Covid was primarily affecting lungs and the respiratory system the Pulmonologist fraternity got into immediate action and worked tirelessly to save as many lives as possible. Those long hours in PPE kits and in masks were physically and mentally tiring and overwhelming. Patients and families needed to be guided and emotionally supported to tide over this dreaded disease. The day will forever be etched in my memory when Mumbai’s first Covid affected patient was admitted at Wockhardt Hospital under my care. On one hand I was working around the clock while on the other hand I felt ostracised as everyone in and around my housing society would look at me with fear and stay away from me.
In hindsight it really troubled me that people were avoiding me because of my professional commitments required in these challenging times. Instead of being empathetic and appreciative they feared I would infect them. It was a paradox that the very people I was trying to protect felt threatened by me.
In midst of this my first Covid affected patient recovered and his recovery journey was widely covered by the media. He applauded us for our selfless service. Once news came out people’s perspectives started changing. Doctors were put on pedestals long after this initial phase of doubt.
It was a tough job to get into fighting mode everyday with the number of cases spiralling. The concern of my elderly parents and a young child at home and that I could infect my family kept me anxious throughout. I did not let this self-doubt win over my duty as a Doctor.
In the first wave we did not have many treatment options nor vaccine/medicine availability to steady a worsening situation. Being a Pulmonologist and an expert in managing such cases, we worked and brainstormed continuously to adjust treatment settings to get a positive outcome to help recover as many affected individuals as possible. Families of affected patients put our trust in us blindly, and that is a huge responsibility.
Like I said the first phase was ripe with lack of knowledge and scarcity of resources. In such a dire situation we had to make do with whatever was available. We came up with many innovations like double tube from the same ventilator for two patients to optimally use one single ventilator, makeshift portable ventilators during acute ventilator shortage and other ideas to continue treatment on as many patients as possible. We did not want to refuse treating any patient who came to us. Except the medical bit there are lot of other aspects that go overlooked but require a lot of effort and energy to get done. We pledged that no patient would suffer due to Covid admission protocol for admission and hence we went out of the way to make special protocols to facilitate admission and care. Several hundreds of people who were unable to find beds in hospitals reached out to us. We accommodated as many as we could. Parallely consulted thousands of sick patients who did not need hospitalization but required home quarantine and treatment consumed whatever was left of our day/night. This went on for more than a year.
We were better equipped by the time the second wave hit us as we had concrete research and new drug options. We read up all available published data and studies post our work timings to be able to offer better treatment.
Remdesivir, Favipiravir, Molnupiravir, plasma transfusion, steroids, blood thinners, antibody cocktail, HCQ, Azithromycin, doxycycline and host of other drugs claimed to be effective but needed to be monitored and prescribed cautiously.
Post the second wave came the most crucial part of the Covid journey. Once the vaccines arrived all Doctors took them without much safety data available or guaranteed protection so that people would be convinced about their safety and willingly accept them. We read about it and educated the masses about the same. We were equal partners in the Government’s initiative to educate and convince people about the benefit of being vaccinated.
As the fear of Covid still lurks and as cases again seem to be rising in some parts of the world our job here is not done yet. This pandemic has taught and toughened us to face any adversities that come in the near future. As a proud Pulmonologist I am grateful that I was able to uphold my medical oath and help my patients in the most humane way possible.