A Pune Doctor Opens Up About What It Means To Work During COVID-19

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.
It’s just another virus,” I thought. “We will deal with it when the time comes,” I had thought. And then, over a span of 15 days, something went wrong. Representation of COVID-19

As I sit here in Ward 31/32 of Sassoon Hospital, situated in Pune, another city in India turning out to be the hotspot for rising COVID-19 with the first reported case of community transmission, waiting for my senior to take the regular evening rounds, I get a very anxious call from my grandmother concerned about the happenings around. I did what I do my best, counselled her, calmed her down, and assured her that, “This too shall pass.” But, how sure was I?

I remember the first week of January 2020, Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan had recently hit the news. I remember being very ignorant about it. “It’s just another virus,” I thought. “We will deal with it when the time comes,” I had thought. And then, over a span of 15 days, something went wrong. Something didn’t seem very right. But, my ignorance prevailed. Until one day, when our first case was finally here.

The child inside me was still confused with the events that followed. International lockdowns, quarantine zones, shutdowns, and all of a sudden things started taking a turn for the worse. COVID-19 was declared an ‘international pandemic’, something we had only read in books till now. And here we are, on the ground zero, ready to face the worse. This child was now scared.

Photo by Amarjeet Kumar Singh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

With a population of 1.3 billion, and with the disease now entering from Phase-2 to Phase-3, we are already sitting on a ticking time-bomb.

As unfortunate as it can get, the healthcare system in India doesn’t have enough ICU beds, and only flattening the curve of transmission can help reduce the number of transmissions in phase-3, which is basically community transmission, which has already begun.

Having recently watched Chernobyl on Hotstar, the worsening of the pandemic sent chills down my spine. From Chernobyl to the Coronavirus, both have and will cost lives, of no clue how many. But what really amazes me is how something as small as a virus, which is not even visible to the naked eyes, is enough to cause havoc in our lives.

With the entire country under lockdown today, and also repeatedly being urged to stay indoors for at least 1-2 weeks, there is still a vast majority of educated and elite out there, still existing in sheer ignorance about the seriousness of the matter. Whether is it your defence mechanism to stay in denial or your absolute ignorance, it is high time to wake up to our dark realities.

We, as doctors, are right here to face the direct repercussions of every little, or massive, mistake being done on your part. Every single flight/train/bus that you board, when you are not supposed to, or when you are quarantined but you want to see the world, “because why not”, WILL cost lives.

You may just have the mild flu and be set free after a few weeks of observation, but, that won’t be the case with your loved ones, or someone else’s loved ones. For once, stop the mad rush, stop the madness, and think. Think!

Crowded train station India - Flickr
In the times that lie ahead, we sincerely urge you to stay home, cherish your family time, stay healthy, eat healthily, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching your face and eyes. Representational image.

Think of how you can affect or get affected and be the carrier in the cycle of transmission. And, if the impending doom finally comes, we will be there beside you to take care of you, till we can. With no proper availability of personal protective devices and unavailability of N-95 masks to those who are in most need of it, like the healthcare professionals, like your nurse, we don’t know how long the team would survive the disaster, how many will get through, how many would succumb midway.

We don’t know how the lack of ICU beds would take how many lives, and we don’t know how we would get over the guilt and the helplessness, we don’t know how many lives will be lost, and how many people will be successfully sent home, free of illness. We don’t know how we would be able to deal with the overwhelming emotions and stress and pressure and fear that is going to come our way in the following weeks.

We don’t know what to tell our mothers when they sound all worried and anxious about us, we don’t know how many days will it take for us to get past this pandemic. We regret not knowing when we would next meet our family and loved ones, we don’t know if we and our fellows will get through this, safe and sound, but we assure you we are out here, looking for you, till we can.

In the times that lie ahead, we sincerely urge you to stay home, cherish your family time, stay healthy, eat healthily, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching your face and eyes, wash clothes regularly, and if you are quarantined, please respect it and remain in isolation.

As for the vast majority of underprivileged, people living food-to-mouth, getting jobless and probably homeless with the badly hit economy and the lockdowns, I can only hope the government takes timely measures to save you all.

So what if they say, 2020 was the beginning of the end of the world. We are going to get through the war against COVID-19, and when we finally reach the shore, everything will be more beautiful and valuable than it had ever been. We will live up to fulfil what Abdul Kalamji had envisioned in India 2020.

Hoping for the welfare of the janta (people) out there, stay happy, stay indoors, do not panic and, well, listen to your doctor.

More News On Coronavirus

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Combating Coronavirus: What Can We Do To Move From Fear To Self-Control?

On The Face Of A Pandemic, Our PM Addressed The Nation, But Is It Enough?

Here’s How We Can Fight Against Covid-19: A Precautionary Guide

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Featured image for representation only. Source: Getty
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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