Doctors open up on mental agony faced while working during 2nd wave of COVID

·4-min read

New Delhi, May 17 (PTI) Prolonged duty shifts, watching patients die every day or family members pleading to save their lives, doctors on COVID duty in Delhi say they went through unimaginable mental agony during the worst phase of the second wave of the pandemic.

From government hospitals to private facilities, the calamitous second wave in Delhi not only strained healthcare infrastructure to its limits, but also affected the physical and psychological well-being of doctors and other healthcare workers.

Dr. Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior consultant at Apollo Hospitals here, said the daily cases count dropping in the last few days has come as breather as it was an 'absolute nightmare' in the COVID wards before.

'We are trained as doctors to handle pain and deaths in front of us, but the sheer number of fatalities everyday, when you see your patients in unbearable pain or their relatives pleading to save their lives or when they are struggling on ventilators, one feels helpless against this raging virus,' he told PTI.

Chatterjee, himself a COVID survivor who was infected last year, said the last 20-25 days of his job has 'changed his life'.

'We are hardened professionals but we are also humans at the end of the day, and to see our own colleagues and family friends suffering in pain and then die with such a severity and frequency, it became unbearable,' he recalled.

The senior doctor at the Apollo facility in Sarita Vihar said his daughter was infected this year too despite testing positive last year, and his in-laws too were hit by the pandemic.

'With such heavy duty stretching to about 15 hours, in wards and over phones, and lately the SOS calls would just not end day and night, and also reading about beds and oxygen crisis, as a doctor, we were stretched both physically and mentally and these last couple of weeks have been very agonising,' he said.

Dr Richa Sareen, consultant, pulmonology at Fortis hospital here, who recently lost her immediate family member to COVID, said mental health of doctors are at an 'all-time low' due to what they have undergone in the last few weeks.

'However, strong we may be as professionals, the human side is a bit vulnerable, and when you know the virus is spreading with an ominous pace and claiming lives of even the youths, one gets worried,' she said.

Sareen, also a COVID survivor from last year, said recently her husband and son also tested positive.

'No one is trained to handle the kind of stress particularly the second wave of the pandemic has brought. At work, as doctors we are worried for well-being of our patients, and at home for our family. It's agonising to see people suffer and die every day in the ICUs,' she said.

A large number of doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers and frontline staff in Delhi have lost their lives since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Delhi has been reeling under a brutal second wave of the pandemic that is sweeping the country, claiming a massive number of lives daily, with the recent oxygen supply shortage issue at various hospitals, adding to the woes.

The wave which began late March, spiralled up with over 28,000 cases being recorded on April 20. The national capital had reported a record 448 COVID-19 deaths in a day and 18,043 cases on May 3.

Medical experts say while lockdown majorly has brought down the count of daily cases, but the severity of cases is still the same.

On Sunday, 6,456 cases and 262 deaths were reported while the tally was 6,430 with 337 deaths on Saturday, and 4524 cases and 340 deaths on Monday.

While Fortis' doctor Sareen reads books and watches movies to de-stress herself, Apollo's Chatterjee says, he listens to music while driving from work to home close to midnight.

'I have a very positive frame of mind, so it helps, plus having been a COVID survivor myself, I understand my patients better and empathise with them,' Chatterjee said.

But, not just doctors and nurses, who felt mentally agonised during the last few weeks, even laboratory technicians, collecting COVID samples have emotional tales to tell.

'I pick up samples in south Delhi, and up until last few days, it was mayhem in Delhi. We were picking 18-20 samples in a day, which has now reduced to about half of that number. Many families, I went to for collecting samples for mite tests or repeat tests, had their members struggling in hospitals or already dead,' said Sanjeev Kumar Mishra, a city-based lab technician, who has a franchise for a leading private lab.

'Many of these families, I know them by faces and names. Life has been tough, but this pandemic also connected us humans,' he said. PTI KND TDS TDS