Health workers battle emotional stress while fighting COVID-19 By Manisha Rege

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Health workers battle emotional stress while fighting COVID-19 By Manisha Rege
Mumbai, Apr 23 () Healthcare workers at theforefront of the war against coronavirus are not only facingthe daunting task of handling patients, but are also fightingto keep their own worries and emotional stress at bay.

A doctor from a leading Mumbai hospital, who iscurrently home quarantined after he came in contact with acolleague who had coronavirus symptoms, said these times arechallenging for everyone, including the medical fraternity.

Even though his colleague tested negative forcoronavirus, the doctor is not taking any chances as he hasaged parents and a six-month-old son at home.

"I haven't touched my baby since the last one month.Yesterday was my wife's birthday, but I could not participatein the celebration since I am confined to a separate room inthe house," the doctor told .

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He said some of them at the frontline of the COVID-19war are feeling exhausted and running out of patience.

"Initially, we thought we would tide over the crisis.But, now April is ending and there is no sign of decrease incoronavirus cases. My colleagues haven't met their familiesfor last one month," he said.

"The junior doctors, nurses and paramedicshave reallytaken up this war time as a challenge. We hopewe are able toflatten the curve," he said.

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He said wearing the personal protection equipment(PPE) and masks for long hours is also no mean task and makesthem feel suffocated.

The PPE comprises a gown, shoes, cap, N-95 mask,goggles and double gloves which are air tight.

"Still, there is no guarantee of protection againstthe virus," he said.

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Most hospitals here have separate coronavirus diseaseward, ICU and a dedicated medical team whose members work forfive days and then are quarantined for seven days, he added.

A nurse, who is ward in-charge in a city hospital,was initially quite worried when she was told last month thatthe medical facility will admit COVID-19 patients, and she andher team will be working in the specially created ward.

"We were not mentally prepared and had heard abouthow serious the situation was in China. I was more worried formy young team than my 15-year-old son and husband. What if Iwas got infected while treating the patients?" she said,adding that they did not even know how to wear the PPE.

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"I could not control my emotions in front of my seniordoctor. He said I may be excluded from the team as I was verysensitive. Later, he told me I can take up this challenge byconsidering my own and my team's safety first. He said thehospital trusts me I can handle the situation," she revealed.

The nurse said she then took it upon herself to stayemotionally strong. But, the fear of whether she and herfamily would be safe continued to haunt her.

"Fortunately, all patients who have come to us sofar are stable and not like what we had heard about China andother countries," she said.

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But, her inner struggles continued when she could notcelebrate her son's 15th birthday on March 24, as the firstCOVID-19 patient got admitted to their hospital that day.

"I felt sad and at the same time wondered if I wasmaking my family and team unsafe. I felt I was responsible fortheir safety. So, we sent our son to my parents' home and meand my husband maintained social distancing," she said.

But, the emotional turmoil continued and one day,after returning come, she cried.

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Her son consoled her, saying she was part of effortsbeing made at the global level to fight the pandemic andshould not be emotional.

"My son was proud of me. The next day, I joined theduty at my hospital and worked non-stop for the next few days.My son would call me at night to enquire about me. Some nursesdid not report to work due to family pressure or fear of beingisolated by society, but my allowed me to work," she said.

The nurse said they also faced problems when thecleaning staff stayed away from work after the COVID unit wasstarted. "We nurses had to clean the patients and also givethem bed pan," she said.

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While she was all geared up for her work, she wasearlier this month asked to remain in institutional quarantinefor 10 days after she came in contact with a ward boy whotested positive for coronavirus.

"My test later came out negative. I felt God wanted meto continue my work. There is no fear of coronavirus now," thenurse said.

She also expressed concern over fake content oncoronavirus circulating on social media.

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Revealing one such incident, she said the securityguard of her ward tested positive for coronavirus sometimeback and was admitted to another hospital.

A few days later, the security guard's son came to herand showed a purported video of his father's death and thecivic body preparing for the funeral.

"I informed higher authorities of my hospital tocheck and found the security guard was stable and doing well.This left me wondering how people can think of preparing fakevideos when the health workers and others are working round-the-clock to contain the pandemic," she said. MRGK GK
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