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.
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.