LAHORE - Being entombed in PPE suits for six hours is hard, fighting the fear of contracting COVID-19 tougher and not meeting children, spouses or parents for weeks the toughest. But that is what doctors have signed up for and that is what they do, say the doughty doctors and nurses at the hospitals.

The days of paramedics spin around the COVID-19 patients and a life around their families and the twain never meets. That is the maxim for the band of frontline warriors in the battle against the epidemic who go to odd extents to separate themselves from their loved ones and ensure the two halves that make up their world stay completely distinct.

Haris Butt and Zeeshan Murtaza, both medical officers serving in Corona Ward at a government facility, are among those who have been at the vanguard since the crisis began and remain steadfast in their commitment to their work and its many challenges. Both of them live with their families, but haven’t met their loved ones for weeks. Both of the medics travel back to their houses after the rotation is finished, but they make sure that they isolate themselves from their families. They haven’t been within touching distance of their kin since their COVID-19 duties started.

“Isolating ourselves from the family members is the most difficult part; the days are a test of our patience and will power. But the spirit of helping our patients keeps us motivated” thought Haris Butt. The parents and siblings of both the front liners have their own rooms and have been very sympathetic with them. ‘’Since the lockdown began, I devote most of the time to gardening at my home, close to my parents and wife’s rooms, watch them go about their daily work and talk to them from window. It is tough, but it is an obligation,’’ said Zeeshan.

Other doctors at the isolation centres have the same story to tell. Most doctors after their shift stay in a separate room in their homes and even don’t dare to touch their children.

The night shift of doctors’ ends at 6 am and just after reaching their homes after the shift, the front liners keep their scrubs for washing, take shower and make breakfast for them. It’s the end of just another day, but they can’t imagine to spend these days in any other way. When the coronavirus outburst transpired, many doctors wrote letter to the UHS administration requesting them to post them in COVID-19 wards. COVID-19 duty was professed as somewhat fearful, as to attire a Personal Protective Equipment suit for six straight hours to ward off the dangers of being in an environment where the risk of infection is ever present is not that easy as one thinks. It is a daily threat for the staff involved in COVID-19 onuses. The routine of getting into a suit and getting out of one is a complex, meticulous procedure and extreme care is required to avoid any exposure. They have to devour their meals at least an hour before donning the suit and evade even drinking water. Once the PPE is worn, it is six hours of no food, no going to the toilet, extreme perspiration, nausea and even hazy vision. With the goggles and fogging, sometimes it’s even difficult to read the name of medicines and a double check with colleagues is required.

Marks on the face due to wearing of the mask and goggles inside the PPE suit gets clearly visible. With the surge in cases, health workers around the country walk the tightrope between work and home. Although hundreds of health facilitators are victim to this deadly disease and several lost their lives but even in the face of such adversity, the workers are undeterred in their resolve to do their best. Doctors don’t see the situation unique for them as they are always at a risk of infection. For patients undergoing COVID-19 treatment, the hospital stay can be lonely and traumatic. Over a period of time, they develop a bond. That is perhaps the dream that a doctor sees when he opts for the medical profession.

 

–The writer is a staffer at The Nation. He can be reached at fatehfarooq1993@gmail.com. He tweets @iamfatehfarooq.