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The Anxious Ramblings Of A ‘COVID Warrior’

ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

A day in the life of a medical professional dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. Image credit: PTI

Its 8 AM and you take a deep breath. You put on your N95 mask, one out of the six sanctioned to you this month. You pray you numbered them correctly and aren’t re-using the one from when that babaji sneezed in your face. You make sure the straps don’t cross each other but also don’t pluck out your hair–what a quandary.

You get into this cab, having sanitized for the 11th time since you woke up, after closing the door shut. You awkwardly wonder about how many people wipe their hands on the seat of their pants after the sacred handwashing ritual–the phrase butt virus makes you chuckle.

Your news app tells you there’s been a couple hundred more deaths and 20k odd new cases since you were last in this cab. If you had your pulse oximeter right now it would tell you that your pulse just shot up to 130, but who cares, the guy without the mask on his bike taking his girl on a joyride definitely doesn’t.

No condoms, No helmets, No masks – it’s a daring, uncaring nation.

You reach your ward, get your updates from your colleague in a hurry while you change into scrubs, and masks, and surgical caps, and shoe covers, and gloves, and surgical gowns, before you open any files – who knows what unwashed hands touched it.

F for Files, F for Foe, F for Fomites.

A year ago this may well have been the diary entry of one of your OCD patients, but here you are, at it anyhow.

You put your notes in while waiting for your rounds with the higher-ups; the faculty members who never seem to find any patient worth actually entering the ward for. Treat the file, not the patient is kind of the norm here. You wonder whether the 92-year-old diabetic inside is going to have another hypoglycemic spell today. You also wonder whether the 22-year-old with oxygen saturation lower than your body weight is still alive. You also wonder whether you’re even entitled to wonder about all this seeing as to how you’re actually just a Psychiatry resident.

“A few hours and no deaths later, its time for rounds again, this time a quick update of the charts, a quick look through the patient’s vitals, a not-so-quick saniscrub scrub again, and you’re done.” Representational image. Image credit: Anuwar Ali Hazarika/Barcroft Media via Getty Images.

It’s time for sampling, so you put on that Styrofoam katora (cup) and that raincoat spacesuit jumpsuit hybrid. These PPE coveralls have REALLY put you off rompers as a fashion choice for life. You trudge on in, swearing to do the most amount of work in the least amount of time possible.

You take out all the samples and change out all the cannulas like the expendable little medic-elf that you are, but you want to make sure the patients inside aren’t too gloomy either. It’s not their fault there’s a pandemic ripping the world apart. There may be a river of sweat flowing out of the nape of your neck by now, but there’s a personal sense of responsibility you feel towards their mental health, so you take some extra time and listen to their complaints about the lousy AC, the runny tea, the poor network coverage.

What you really want to know is how isolation feels for them, whether they feel stigmatised in any way, how you can help with their crushing anxiety – but who’s gonna share all this with a faceless stranger in a spacesuit?

You now doff in the sad little doffing area; a makeshift affair behind a broken door with a broken chair and half a broken bottle of sterilium. You make sure to sterilize between each step as the videos told you to, you take your time even though every cell of your body is basically a dehydrated prune by this point.

You sprint to the showers and douse yourself with saniscrub like its Lux body wash and you’re Kareena!

Once back, it’s time for more notes. You crave the juice they serve here for lunch, but you feel too unclean to actually take more than a few carefully sanitized sips from the bottle.

Image credit: Getty Images.

A few hours and no deaths later, its time for rounds again, this time a quick update of the charts, a quick look through the patient’s vitals, a not-so-quick saniscrub scrub again, and you’re done.

You put all the updates on all the hospital Whatsapp groups and ignore the forwards your mom has sent you about the pros and cons of HCQ prophylaxis. You also try to ignore the fact that it is a Saturday, and had you been home today, there would be mom’s mutton waiting for dinner.

The lines between suppression and repression as defence mechanisms blur themselves daily for all you first-line defenders.

You change out of your scrubs, unplasticate your phone and sanitise it anyway, and hop into your cab, ‘cyber-scrolling’ through the lives of your non-medico friends and cousins, their maskless parties, photo-ops, their gleaming lives where things like lipsticks and heels haven’t been switched out for masks and Crocs. You’re envious, but mostly you’re relieved that no one you personally know, has gotten sick. That must mean it’s not so bad right?

The cab stops, you thank the driver, he thanks you for your service. Small talk ensues about Doctor’s Day a few days ago, about clanging thalis, about healthcare workers being the real soldiers. You’re appreciative, but mostly you’re just irritated that the man won’t lift up his mask to cover his nose. You go up to your room.

Its 8 PM and you take a deep breath. It’s time to wash your clothes.

Featured image for representation only.
Featured image credit: Getty Images.
This post is a part of COVID Diaries, a special series under the #ReimagineTogether campaign. Tell us how this lockdown and pandemic has affected you! Join the conversation by adding a post here. here.
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  1. Girish Pandit

    Harsh reality penned down beautifully👍

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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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