MALAPPURAM: For three-year-old Iniya, any place is heaven if her father is around. On Saturday, it had been 25 days since she last saw Shajeer P, an emergency medical technician with the 108 Ambulance service in Perinthalmanna District Hospital. On Saturday, however, she heard an ambulance passing through the front of her house in Vattaloor, following which she ran outside. Much to her excitement, it was her father waving at her from the ambulance.
But to her dismay, she could not run up to him, nor could she talk with him to her heart’s content as he was on duty. Soon enough, loud cries filled the house. “Vappa (father) is a nurse. He needs to take care of lots of patients,” said Najiya, Iniya’s mother, trying to console the three-year-old. It was Shajeer’s idea to meet his daughter from the ambulance so as to ensure a safe distance from each other during the meeting.
“I could think of no other way to meet her and keep her safe from exposure. My wife told me that whenever Iniya heard the sound of a vehicle, she would run outside expecting to meet me. Hence, I planned this short long-distance meet. I was shifting a Covid-19 suspect from Pulamanthole to Manjeri Government Medical College Hospital, when I asked Najiya to come out with Iniya. I could see her crying as I passed the house waving at her,” said Shajeer.
Shajeer represents hundreds of health workers who are unable to go home and be with their loved ones.
“I don’t want to take a risk with my family. Going home at this time won’t be wise as I deal with Covid patients. Iniya won’t listen if I ask her to keep distance. When I’m home, she is constantly with me,” he said. Shajeer, along with other staff of the ambulance service -- Fahadali Palliyalil, Srubitha Manjeri and Murshid Edathanattukara -- have been staying in rented rooms near the hospital for a month now.
“Many of us cannot go back till the crisis is over. I’ll go back only after ensuring the overall situation is safe. Also, our workload is high ever since the outbreak. Now, we complete atleast eight Covid-related trips every day,” added Shajeer.
Every 108 ambulance has two members – a driver and a nurse. “As per the instructions issued by health authorities, we pick up suspected cases from their homes. Before shifting them into the ambulance, we inquire for symptoms. If the patient has mild symptoms, we give masks and gloves. If the patient is Covid-positive, we ask them to wear personal protection equipment. We also wear the equipment in such cases,” he said.