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Conversation On COVID: “Patients Plead Before Doctors For Help. Who Do We Plead To?”


This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Dr Shahnawaz B Kaloo, Interventional Radiologist and Liver Cancer Specialist, Max Hospital Saket, New Delhi, interacts with Author and Advocate Raaz Dheeraj Sharma, a user of Youth Ki Awaaz, about the second wave of COVID-19, testing, vaccines, shortage of oxygen and beds, different stages of the virus and more.

They also discussed how difficult it is for doctors to manage mental health and whether vitamin supplements are necessary. This interview aims to answer all relevant questions that will avoid panic and anxiety and spread awareness about the virus.

Dr Kaloo/ Photo: File

Raaz Dheeraj Sharma (RDS): I don’t think I’d be wrong if I say that we are facing the most difficult, challenging and tough time. People are not only dying due to COVID but also due to a shortage of Oxygen and ICU Beds. How difficult it is to handle this kind of situation for you? Doctors are also humans, after all. 

Dr Shahnawaz B Kaloo (SBK): COVID has bought us immense pain and agony. Our people didn’t deserve this. Every day, my inbox is full of distress messages. Hospitals are full. There is a shortage of beds/ventilators everywhere around. There are patients out there in urgent need of medical care.

We doctors are also helpless. Whom do we beg for help? Doctors being at the forefront of this pandemic are suffering too. Besides the stress at the workplace due to the extra working hours and shortage of staff, there is a feeling of helplessness when we are unable to save a patient, especially when a young patient dies.

At the same time, doctors are seeing their own family members getting the disease and at times, they need to be hospitalized. Due to a shortage of beds, many times doctors are unable to find beds/ICU for their own family members. This has bought feeling of despair and helplessness. We are also having an example of Dr RK Himthani (HOD Batra Hospital) who succumbed to COVID after the hospital ran out of oxygen. At times patients plead before doctors for help but who will doctors plead to?

RDS: Considering the death cases, it appears that the second wave is more dangerous than the first wave. Can you please explain the difference and why this second wave is becoming more aggressive and precarious?

SBK: The second wave of COVID is driven by the mutant coronavirus which is more contagious. This has given to a sudden rise in the number of cases. Besides, the second wave is also partly driven by our carelessness, by mass gatherings, festivals and non-adherence to the COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

RDS: When it is necessary for the person to go for a COVID test? What kind of symptoms, if an individual has, should not be ignored? There are a lot of cases where people are ignoring initial symptoms which eventually become dangerous for their lungs.

SBK: If a person is having any symptoms like fever, sore throat, cough, persistent headache, body ache or Diarrhea, the first thing they must do is to isolate themselves. This has to be done even if just one of the above symptoms is present.

It will save the other members of the family from catching the virus. Next, the person should measure temperature and oxygen saturation. If there is a fever/ drop in oxygen saturation, a COVID test should be requested. In case it is Positive, isolation should be continued for 10 days and even in the case of negative, the person should still continue isolation 3 days after the symptoms resolve.

RDS: We have to accept that due to unawareness and lack of knowledge, there is a lot of panic, fear and stress which may be avoidable. Can you please explain that when should an individual search for oxygen, normal bed, oxygen bed, ICU Bed and ventilator? How should one observe that COVID is affecting an individual badly? How to determine different stages of corona?

SBK: Don’t wait for RT-PCR results. If you have symptoms as mentioned above, then think that you might have COVID and measure Oxygen saturation (SpO2). If a person catches a COVID infection, the majority of the times they can be managed at home. Measure oxygen 3 to 5 times daily and measure temperature 3 times daily. Pulse Oximeter (or fitness tracker) can be used to measure oxygen at home.

Use it on a warm clean finger (nail polish may interfere with results) If oxygen is above 92%, the person should continue home isolation and medicines. However, if saturation falls below 92 % the patient needs oxygen support in the form of an oxygen cylinder or oxygen concentrators. Ideally, all such patients should be hospitalized but due to scarcity of beds, oxygen may be arranged at home. If a person is able to achieve a target oxygen level of 92-96% on oxygen support, then it should be continued, else ventilator support and ICU is indicated.


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RDS: COVID Patients and ones who don’t have it too are taking some medicines which are related to Vitamin B, C and D. Are they helpful? Can we take them without the prescription of doctors especially Vitamin D tablets? Do these medicines have any side effects?

SBK: The best sources of Vitamins are vegetables and sunlight. No need to take tablets. These tablets are unnecessary in most cases. However, if there is suspicion of Vitamins deficiency (like vitamin D), then Vitamin Supplements are necessary.

RDS: COVID does not discriminate by age and younger adults are also suddenly dying who were doing perfectly fine and who were physically fit.

SBK: Unfortunately, all age groups are susceptible to COVID and we are observing deaths in young and children too. This makes it even more important that all age groups should get vaccinated.

RDS: You all are rendering services day and night. We can understand that it is not easy to wear PPE Kits or just doing this job at this moment. How difficult it is, mentally and emotionally, for doctors and staffs to serve during these critical times?

SBK: The mental health issues are being seen. Few cases of suicide cases have happened too. We must ensure that the staff working in COVID care facilities are been taken care of. There should be relaxation therapy sessions by a trained psychologist with a special focus on those members showing signs of depression. PPE kits cause additional inconvenience, especially during the summer months.

Those working outdoors should use a double mask and face shields but can avoid full-body gowns in many situations. This is the battle we all have to fight together, people, doctors, administrations, scientists and everyone else. We need to support each other and appreciate each other’s contributions. This will be our greatest strength in this fight.

About the Author: Raaz Dheeraj Sharma is an advocate and author of “15 Strangers: Conversations that mean a Lifetime” who is writing for Youth Ki Awaaz on different issues and interacts with renowned personalities and motivators.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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