As Covid-19 pandemic has swept across the globe and taking worst of its toll in India, have you ever thought about what it means to be a Doctor at frontline during Corona times? Almost all the doctors across the globe are potential Covid Carriers and they know it. Many doctors have also lost their lives, while serving the humankind and fighting against Corona but they have not backed down. Do you understand what it means to be the family members of a Doctor at such times? Have you ever wondered what stir their hearts when the beloved is serving the society at the frontline? The family members of doctors are living in an inherent fear of losing him or her.
Call of Duty is certainly tough. Let me introduce you to one such family,
Dr Anil Kumar Jha, his wife Dr Priyanka Tripathi and their son Peeyush!!
Dr Anil Kumar Jha lost his father in 1980s when he was just 11. He also had eight siblings and they were all lost in his absence. They all supported each other in their journey to rise. When his elder sister became a doctor from Jamshedpur,he also wished to be the one someday. It was a tough road for him to be a doctor. He fought against all odds,poverty and social injustice to become a neuro physician. He got married in 2003 with his sweetheart Priyanka after a courtship of around a year. He had met her for the first time at his workplace; the hospital. They instantly clicked and tied the nuptial knots after their families approved. Priyanka was passionate about her career and wanted to do something in life. She completed her Phd while Dr Anil completed his DNB and other specialities. Their son was really small that time. He shares
“When Priyanka was completing her Phd from IIT Kharagpur I was in Kolkata pursuing my DNB. Our son was just 2 years old and lived with his grandmothers. That was particularly a tough period for us. While we travelled rigorously to meet each other, I also lost my elder sister to cancer. My mother was also detected with cancer. We also suffered from guilt of not giving time to our young son,Priyanka missed him desperately but I kept motivating her. I knew how important it was to be self independent and education was the key to it. During early years of our marriage we hardly stayed together.”
Soon Dr Priyanka got her dream job at IIT Patna she asked her husband if he could leave his cosy job at TMH Jamshedpur for her job and the progressive man actually left his job. They finally settled in Patna which has been their home and workplace since 2013. While Dr Priyanka is associate professor of English at Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, at IIT Patna, Dr Anil is a senior consultant, neurology at the corporate hospital Patna. They finally built the life they always dreamed off and worked really really hard for it.
But COVID has turned their lives upside down. It is been long since Dr Anil has met his wife and son who live at IIT campus while he stays at his Patna accommodation. Once his son even asked him to leave everything and join them at IIT campus and live with them. He shares
“I know he is scared for me. So many news of Doctors dying because of Covid, floats in the news and he is young. My wife does not shares her fear but I am aware she is tensioned too. But I can not run away from my job. That is why I trained for years. I am not one of those showing my back at tough times when I am needed the most.
Serving society and people is what we doctors vouch for and though I have the option of staying safe with them than roaming in a COVID hospital, I would prefer to stay firm and fight the pandemic in whatever ways I can.”
Working as a Doctor is particularly tough during COVID times, no matter what your specialisation is,you are always working among and on, potential COVID suspects and you yourself become a potential carrier as a health care provider but despite the life risks all health care providers have truly done a commendable job.
Doctor Anil Kumar Jha shared how difficult it is to wear a PPE kit for hours and how masks make him super uncomfortable apart from the heat and suffocation. You can not drink water,can not use washroom and more. Also the PPE kits don’t provide a human touch and emotional connect which patients expect from a doctor. It is a baffling feeling. The work scenarios have completely changed. He also has not met his family staying just 27 km away from him for really long and also misses his personal and social life.
It becomes lonely sometimes.
He talks about his moral responsibility of following all protocols to prevent COVID because he is more exposed to Coronavirus than others. Once, despite being asymptomatic he got COVID test done before visiting his family but now as his hospital has turned into a COVID hospital he has decided not to meet them not just for his family’s safety but also for the safety of the people living around.
He shares though
“But what troubles is the social stigma and taboos around COVID. Despite giving our best to the society in the fight against COVID many a times I have felt social discriminations towards me. I have sensed fear lingering the moment I have visited my family or when I tell my patients that I could be a COVID carrier which is not right. I myself is responsible enough that I will not put others lives at risk. It is very important for common people to understand that discrimination does not win against COVID rather the unified following of COVID protocols.
All the doctors have the option of leaving their jobs and sit at the comfort of their houses away from COVID patients but we don’t do that and we keep people’s lives above us.
It is now people’s responsibility to fight against various stigmas around COVID and treat health care workers with respect.”
I decided to talk to his wife and understand what goes in the mind of a Doctor’s wife when a threat to her husband’s life is more than ever and how she is dealing with it. Dr Priyanka said
“ Not just the fear of him always being at risk but a whole new set of problems have crept in my life. I am a working professional and he was the main source of anchor for my teenage son but now it is just me. I try to uplift his mood and make up best for his father’s absence.
‘And then there is always a recurring thought,lingering tension in my mind. I relate too much with Army wives now.‘
These days I use to have migraines,my sleep cycles has reduced so much because that one feeling of knowing that my husband is exposed to danger all the time does not even leave me in my dreams. I am not able to get rid of this thought and then, this is the kind of danger which is not even perceptible. I also worry about how would I manage things if something happens to him.”
Dr Priyanka also shared many random things in her life like how she walks more just to reduce her stress level. She has started meditating during lockdown. Losing your spouse or any of your family member is an unfortunate thing to happen to any human being but losing someone to COVID is beyond unfortunate. Being an Army wife myself, I could totally relate with Dr Priyanka how harsh it could be for a doctor’s wife whose husband is at the frontline of the pandemic.
Fear,apprehension, the trepidation of unknown never truly leave you. We must salute our COVID Warriors and also their families for being the beacon of hope and reason to come back home for our doctors and health care providers.
We truly can not pay back to their passion and spirit with which they are serving the society,people and nation 24/7
In the end when I asked Dr Anil if he has any messages for people,he had two; one for covid patients and other for the society. He said
“I truly want to tell COVID patients not to fear the pandemic and equip themselves with more knowledge to fight the disease. They must have a basic knowledge of understanding the early symptoms of COVID and be ready to take timely action. Most times, COVID is easily treated with basic medicines. I want to tell society to hold onto their social responsibility and adhere to all the COVID protocols. Fighting COVID is just not doctors, system or government’s responsibility but also of people.The common people have the power to limit the pandemic themselves. Also I request them not to discriminate with the COVID patient and isolate them rather embrace them with empathy. I also urge family members to look after COVID patients after they recover and provide them full attention.”
“We all must accept the fact that any of us can be COVID victims and we must not discriminate the COVID patients or health care providers That is the worst harm us as individuals could do to society,people and nation.”
Maybe we don’t realise it as common people but the service being provided by Indian Doctors is truly exemplary and no amount of flower can ever weigh equal to unparalleled service health care heroes are giving us at the time of crisis.