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Death on a COVID-19 bed: Karnataka doctors struggle to cope mentally

Healthcare system will collapse soon, stay safe, stay indoors, they advise; Lockdown not used to upgrade facilities, they say.

Published: 12th July 2020 06:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th July 2020 04:34 PM   |  A+A-

Private security wearing fully protective clothes at an Isolation ward specially for coronavirus patinents at Gandhi Hospital on Monday as one suspect patient who arrived from Dubai was admitted on Monday

Private security wearing fully protective clothes at an Isolation ward specially for coronavirus patinents at Gandhi Hospital. (File photo| Vinay Madapu, EPS)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Watching a person die is nothing like they show you in the movies. There is no meaningful glance, no poignant last words, no symbolic tear.

Once the drive to live is overwhelmed, a dying man settles into a sort of rhythmic gasping which becomes increasingly feeble. You may even hear the secretions pool in their throat, over the beeping monitors.

"This is a sight we instantly recognise and dread. It’s difficult to tell at which point exactly they’ve crossed the proverbial veil. Some we allow to pass in peace, having exhausted all options. Others, we hold open the jaws of death for, to try and reach in and pull them back out. Sometimes it works. More often, we fail,” are the words of a helpless resident doctor from the Emergency Room at St John’s Hospital in Bengaluru on his Facebook post recently.

He is not alone. Hundreds of doctors working in Covid hospitals have been begging people to “stay at home” and prevent contracting the deadly disease.

Doctors and nurses, or “Covid Warriors”, are showered with petals and cheered upon by clapping from balconies.

But in reality, they are going through a lot of pain, and making frantic calls to their loved ones to tell them to “stay safe and stay indoors”.

“The life of so-called ‘warriors’ is not going good and we are upset that no one is noticing it. We are “saviours”, but then isn’t it an irony that these saviours are now seeing hundreds of lives going unsaved and it’s we who are bidding goodbyes to all those whom we haven’t been able to save,” grieves a 40-year-old doctor, who has seen 12 people die without being able to do anything.

At first, the Covid uptick seemed subtle. But now, hospitals are filling up with patients, leaving hundreds of doctors “helpless” and in the line of fire from patient’s relatives, the administration, health authorities and even the court and media.

ALSO READ | Doctor, I am sure you will save me: Chennai medicos haunted by last moments of dying COVID-19 patients

“The protocols change very quickly, and what you would have done yesterday with a particular case is no longer valid today. It feels like you don’t have time to adapt to one situation and you’re already facing another. Going from a few dozen suspected cases to hundreds of confirmed cases and almost every second patient wanting oxygen or ventilator is overwhelming,” said 38-year-old doctor from a Covid hospital in Jayanagar.

Dr Aditi Rao (name changed) at a government Covid hospital said as she stood in her protective gear, holding her phone in front of a 72-year-old woman’s face so her daughter might see her one last time, she tried to look away respecting the moment.

She could not help but overhear the daughter and over a dozen other family members weeping and saying, “Amma, don’t go away. Please come back.”

Dr Gangadhar, Director, Nimhans, says, “From symptoms of burnout, frustration to facing the ire of a patient’s relatives, the pressure on them is manifold. We need to lessen their burden by being considerate. Public should remember doctors are human beings too and they are people with emotions too.” Doctors warn that the healthcare system will collapse very soon.

“We had a good chance to prepare, to test, trace, hire doctors, nurses and source equipment, but nothing was done,” said a senior cardiac surgeon from Jayadeva hospital.

The St John’s resident doctor says, “Not even death is a release — mortuaries are full of bodies awaiting a swab report before they can be interred. Things are coming to a head. And this is why we are begging. Pleading on our goddamn knees. STAY AT HOME. Lockdown or not, curfew or not - keep yourselves safe. Wear a mask. Stay at home. The worst is yet to come, and we are hilariously under-equipped to deal with it.”

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