scorecardCOVID warriors fight disease, disgrace but soldier on By Trideep Lahkar
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COVID warriors fight disease, disgrace but soldier on By Trideep Lahkar

COVID warriors fight disease, disgrace but soldier on By Trideep Lahkar
IndiaIndia4 min read
Guwahati, May 13 () "Victory is reserved for thosewho are willing to pay its price," legendary Chinese generaland strategist Sun Tzu once famously told his warriors.

Today, a different set of warriors is toiling, day andnight, trying to defeat a sneaky, invisible enemy acrosshospitals, putting at risk almost everything, including theirlives.

These frontline warriors against COVID 19--thefaceless multitude of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff--fight down ostracism by society and their own demons ofloneliness and uncertain future of their families, with theoppressive synthetic shield of PPE forming their last defenceagainst death.

"You never know how strong you are until being strongis the only choice you have," iconic Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley said, and Dr Nayan Jyoti Bez cannotagree more.

Bez, the Registrar of Emergency Medicine at GauhatiMedical College and Hospital (GMCH), is one of the threedoctors in-charge of screening COVID-19 suspect cases at thefacility.

On May 7, Bez had gone to fetch his wife Jita Baruah,also a doctor, from Tezpur, some 180 km from Guwahati. She wasbedridden from excruciating back pain which refused to goaway.

The couple had met after two months. But bad news wastrailing Bez closely.

He got to know that a colleague handling COVID-19patients had tested positive for the virus the day he leftGuwahati and another the next day. Bez had come into contactwith both.

"I immediately put on a mask and withdrew from her. Weate dinner away from each other and slept in separate rooms. Ijust cannot forget the worried look on her face and the tearsthat refused to ebb away," Bez told .

He left for Guwahati the very next morning, leavingbehind his wife, and quarantined himself at his hospital. Heheaved a huge sigh of relief after his swab sample testednegative.

"I cannot express how I felt when he was leaving. Wehad met after two months and I could not even hold his hands,"said Baruah later. She also screens suspected COVID-19patients at the hospital she works for in Tezpur.

At his Guwahati home, where Bez lives with his mother,brother and sister-in-law, the doctor has virtually cocoonedhimself. He lives alone on the first floor and eats fromdisposable plates.

"My duty starts from 7:30 am and I stay till around 4pm in the hospital. During this period, I do not drink or eatanything. At times, it is exhausting. But I have to do this,"he said, his face deadpan and stoic like a battle-scarredsoldier.

Dr Sumanjit S Boro of the Dr B Borooah CancerInstitute (BBCI) is the master of his house but has made theservant quarters his home since the outbreak.

Boro, the only micro-vascular plastic surgeon in thewhole of North-East, is not directly treating COVID-19patients but has taken the precaution to preclude chances ofhis family getting infected.

"You never know which cancer patient is infected withthe coronavirus. Recently, a 16-year-old girl hospitalised inBBCI was detected with COVID-19 and she died.

"The place where I am staying now is on the back sideof our main building. I am living there alone. I have my ownutensils, which I clean myself. My sister-in-law brings foodfor me which she keeps on the table outside my room from whereI pick it up," he said.

Boro felt a twinge in the heart when he could nottouch the feet of his parents to seek blessings during theBihu festival in mid-April. His parents blessed him from asafe distance.

His wife Monalisa, also a doctor, is part of the armyof COVID-19 warriors in Assam, and for her the battle theatreis the Assam Medical College in Dibrugarh, some 500 km awayfrom their Guwahati home.

Benedict Teron, another doctor on the COVID-19battlefront--the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH)-has not informed his family in West Karbi Anglong districtthat he is treating coronavirus patients.

"My mother has died and my father is old. He stayswith my two brothers. I don't want them to worry about me.Maybe I will tell the once the fight is over and we have won,"he said. "These are testing times," he said tersely.

After seven days of duty, Teron's entire team getsquarantined for 14 days.

"There are no boundaries for us as doctors, only duty.We as doctors have taken the oath to protect the lives of allirrespective of gender, religion and nationality. We aretrying to do just that," he said matter-of-factly.

Teron's colleague at JMCH Dr Anoop R narrated hisexperience of the 8-hour shift which he spends in theisolation ward with COVID-19 patients while wrapped inpersonal protective equipment (PPE).

"Once we have worn the PPE, we virtually cut ourselvesoff from the outer world. We cannot drink, eat or even use thewashroom. It is an air-tight clothing that makes us sweatheavily. At the end of the shift, we come out as if we had asteam bath, exhausted and dehydrated," he said.

Anoop, from Kozhikode in Kerala, is all praise for thedistrict authorities who have made arrangements foraccomodating all medical staff who come into direct contactwith COVID-19 patients. "They take good care of us," he said.

"I have not seen my parents for the last six months.They are alone in Kerala as my brother is in Canada now. Theyare worried for me but also proud that I am trying to savelives," he added.

Dr Partha Pratim Medhi has to try hard to quell hiswistful longing to cuddle his eight-month-old daughter.

A patient died of COVID-19 in his hospital last weekand he now lives alone on the first floor of his house. Hefeels an occasional lump in the throat and his heart skips abeat when he sees his daughter peacefully asleep in hermother's arms from a distance.

Medhi said lower grade staff of the hospital facedostracism after the patient died. The locals did not want themin the neighbourhood despite testing negative for the disease.

"Such episodes tend to break our heart and dip ourmorale. But the fight is on," said Medhi.

As the fight gets tough, the Medhis, the Terons, theBoros and Bezes of the world are getting tougher, as theybattle not only the disease but also the disgrace some attachto it. TR KK SKSK SK