HYDERABAD: They are not knights in shining armour, but silent warriors in PPEs guarding us from a pandemic. With not a minute to rest, they have been putting their lives on the line for over a year now to nurse us back to health.
Every year, May 12 is observed as International Nurses Day and it has assumed all the more significance ever since the pandemic broke out last year. With the rising Covid cases putting pressure on the city’s health infrastructure, nurses in several hospitals are holding the fort and making sure that all patients get the best possible care. We speak to some of them and bring to you their stories. Here are the Florence Nightingales of Hyderabad
She derives strength from her uniform
S Vijaya Kumari, general secretary of the NIMS Nurses Union, started her career at CMC Vellore and has been a nurse at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) for the last 29 years. “These are extremely dangerous times we are living in but once I wear my uniform, I just feel strong. There’s something about a nurse’s uniform which gives me immense courage,” says Vijaya, who had earlier wanted to be a teacher. But her parents forced her to take up nursing and she is thankful that they decided her career for her. “No other profession would have given me such satisfaction as nursing.
It is a precious thing to be a nurse and I feel proud that I am one,” she says. Ask her if the rising Covid cases scare her, she says: “I am not scared of death. It’s all God’s will. I believe in that. Till date I haven’t contracted Covid despite working in the triage and Covid wards,” she says. Back in February this year, she used to see hardly as couple of cases a day, but now she sees anything between 30 and 50. “Many nurses sought a transfer to other departments because they were scared of contracting Covid. But I stuck on, someone had to be there to motivate the and support the juniors. Also, nursing is not just about administering medicines and injections. A nurse has to build a bond with patients,” she says.
This single mom is all heart
GH Laxmi, a 38-year-old nurse Gandhi Hospital, has been working non-stop ever since the pandemic hit Hyderabad last year. A mother of two, the single parent sees her kids once a week. “My husband left me a year ago because he wanted me to quit nursing and did not want me to be on Covid duty. But I refused to give up my passion. Now, I don’t have any support except for my younger sister, who helps me with the kids,” an emotional Laxmi says.
She sees at least 20 Covid patients every day and deals with several deaths too, yet she remains unfazed by the harsh realities that the pandemic is throwing at her every single day. “We all have to die someday in some way or the other. And I want to die a happy woman. The only thing that satisfies me is serving the people of this country during these trying times. I cannot be selfish now when thousands of people are dying every single day. I refuse to give up all the training and skills I acquired. All I can think of is to help as many people as I can,” she says.
Patients are his priority
Here’s a male nurse who is giving it his all to ensure that his patients recover from the deadly virus. His life is in a PPE suit and it is tough. “We are in our PPE suits 24x7. We can’t take a water break or even visit the restroom for six hours straight. Once we take off our face shield, we have to change the entire suit. It becomes so difficult to administer IV because we cannot see anything through the foggy face shield,” says Mohd Nizamuddin, a contract staff nurse at NIMS. Nizamuddin, who had contracted the virus last month but had mild symptoms, is worried about his family.
“I try my best to keep them safe. I take hot baths before leaving from the hospital. Yet my one-year-old boy and wife got infected,” he says. He says the government should realise the conditions in which nurses are working in and should abolish this contract/outsourcing system. “I get paid only Rs 25,000 a month despite having 10 years experience. There’s so much burden on us at the hospital because every second healthcare worker is testing positive and is in quarantine. Just recently an ANM, who was seven-months pregnant, died of Covid. At least if there is job security, I will be at peace,” he says.
‘Fear is a cruel killer’
D Rosy, a 36-year-old contract staff nurse at NIMS, has been isolating herself from her family for the last 15 months. “I’ve been sleeping in a separate room so that my husband and kids do not get infected. I eat after they are all done with their meal. I see so many Covid patients every day and am exposed to so many bodies, I cannot put my family at risk,” she says. Rosy, who is deployed at the hospital’s emergency block, believes in creating a strong bond with her patients. “There are no beds, there’s no oxygen but it is mostly the fear that is killing people.
There have been times when an ambulance arrives at the emergency block and by the time we wheel out the patient, he/she is dead. This is also happening because people are delaying treatment and that last-minute panic worsens their condition,” says Rosy, who sees 30-40 Covid patients a day. Speaking about the conditions nurses work in, she says that she’s seen eight-month pregnant nurses also working in Covid wards as they were not granted maternity leave. “We don’t want to be showered with flowers from a helicopter or any such grand gesture. All we want is job security,” she says.
Rosy has been isolating herself from her family for the last 15 months. She sleeps in a separate room, eats alone
— Himabindu Reddy email@example.com @himureddy