With Omicron driving India's 3rd COVID wave, and cases continuing to surge in the country, there seems to be no respite in sight for the healthcare workers. Unlike the 2nd wave, though the number of COVID patients requiring ICU admission at hospitals, or dying from it is less, we surely cannot let our guard down.
Looking back at the past close to 2 years of COVID in the country, there were multiple heart-wrenching moments I witnessed as a doctor on the frontline, which I would really love to forget.
Following is one such conversation with the son of a patient, which has been hard to erase from my mind. It was the last week of April' 21, the 2nd wave was at its peak and there was a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen as India battled COVID. Though my work in the Emergency involves catering to all types of medical or surgical cases coming to the department, over the last decade, I had never admitted any patients under my care as the primary treating physician. It so happened that the chief consultant in a small 25 bedded hospital (near to my last place of work) had to go on a week-long leave for his brother’s wedding, and the owners approached me to cover for him temporarily.
For the 1st time in my life, I was responsible for treating and saving the life of 22 COVID patients admitted under me, 5 of whom were on high flow oxygen requirement. A young 30-year-old male brought his 62-year-old mother to the hospital with complaints of breathlessness and she had been diagnosed with severe COVID pneumonia, with a CT severity score of 17/25. I explained to him that it was better that they admit her to a bigger hospital since she needed admission to the ICU, and might clinically deteriorate over time. “Doctor, main abhi shamshan ghat se aa raha hun apne father ka cremation karke. Meri mother aur sister dono hi COVID positive hai. Sab jagah dekh liya, kisi bhi hospital mein bed nai hai. Agar koi bhagwan sach mein hai, toh ab aap hi ho mere aur mere poore pariwar k liye. Please kuch bhi karo, meri mummy ko bacha lo, warna main anath ho jaunga (Read: Doctor, I'm just coming back from the crematorium after performing the last rights of my father. My mother and sister are both COVID positive. We have looked everywhere, but there are no beds in any of the hospitals.
If there is really a God, right now, it is only you for me and my family. Please do anything but save my mother's life, or else I will become an orphan)”, he said with both hands folded in front of me, and tears flowing down his eyes.Hearing this, his sister and mother also started crying, and I couldn’t control my emotions as well (my eyes got wet then, they’re wet now too as I write this). Every day, during my patient rounds in the morning and evening, every time I would enter her room, she would just bow down with hands folded as say, “Thakur ji aa gye (Read: God has come)”.
Over the next 7 days, I did everything to care for those 22 patients to the best of my abilities. I truly consider it as a miracle / God’s blessings that all of them recovered well (except 1 patient whom we referred to a higher center as soon as an ICU bed with a ventilator was available for him). That feeling to see the smile on the faces of patients on their path to recovery, to see their oxygen requirement come down gradually, see their happy and relieved relatives, and to finally write ‘Patient can be planned for discharge today’ on their file, is something that I cannot completely express in words. Seeing her getting discharged from the hospital was a really emotional moment for me (her daughter too recovered with oral medications on home isolation). The son did not say a word as I bid her goodbye - just folded hands, tears in his eyes and he bowed down. That said it all. On her follow up visit to my clinic after a week, he said, "Kash hum pehle hi aapke paas aa jate, shayad aaj papa bhi zinda hote"
(Read:I wish we had come to you earlier, maybe my father would have been alive today), and I was at loss of words.
It was God doing his miracles all this while, I was only a medium.
Over the last more than 10 years, I would have treated 1000s of patients, but she will remain one of my most memorable patientsjust due to the sense of responsibility and the burden on my shoulders that the son had put – I had to save her at all costs. Those words from him when he got her on the day of admission reverberate in my ears even today.
To date, I still receive a Whatsapp forward every morning from her, just showering her blessings and expressing her gratitude.