ALAPPUZHA: When Covid-19 broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the small district of Alappuzha too was on tenterhooks. For one of the six medical students who returned to Kerala from Wuhan by the last week of January last year belonged to the district. On January 30, the first coronavirus infection in the country was detected in a Wuhan returnee in Thrissur. The health department staff at Alappuzha General Hospital, including Health Inspector Vasanthi Lara, were anticipating the worst.
“February 1 was a terrible day in my life. A report arrived from the state health department saying that the second case of coronavirus has been reported in our district,” Lara recalled. The Wuhan medical student who arrived in Alappuzha too had tested positive, and the government machinery swung into action to prevent an outbreak in the state.
“But we were unaware of the consequences of the disease,” the 54-year-old said. “The only way in front of us was to prepare teams to prevent the disease from spreading. Immediately, the entire medical team started functioning like a well-oiled machine. Since then, our team has managed to contain the disease and treated thousands of patients with care and caution.”
While the past one year may have been the most trying of her life, the unwavering passion and sincerity to prevent an escalation of the deadly disease has fetched the health inspector the nation’s highest honour in that regard. Lara is the only healthcare worker selected from the state for the ‘Covid Women Warrior: Real Heroes’ award instituted by the National Commission for Women. On this January 31, she received the award from Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar at a function in New Delhi.
The Mullackal native said their team has worked hard to make the arrangements necessary for patients and for those in quarantine. Working with the health department for the past 30 years, she has spent . most of her tenure in Alappuzha district. When promoted to the rank of health inspector, she was transferred to Palakkad. She worked there for four years.
While stressing on team work as the key aspect that helped achieve the main objective of preventing spread and reducing deaths, Lara cited keeping track of those under quarantine as the toughest task. “Tracing persons violating quarantine and moving around was a huge challenge,” she said. They managed to bring back most people but some violators escaped, she said. “Local residents were cooperative in the health department’s efforts,” she said.
Lara had earlier received the the state government’s Best Woman Health Inspector award for services rendered during the 2018 flood. Health Minister K K Shailaja had presented her with the award last May. Her husband, Shabeer Khan, a native of Pathanapuram, had worked in Dubai for many years before returning last year to settle down in Alappuzha. Son Ismail is a dentist while daughter Sara is a medical student.