Reshma Mohandas has recovered from COVID-19 and is raring to go back to work. This 32-year-old nurse from Kerala’s Kottayam nursed the country’s oldest COVID-19 patients back to health, only to be infected by the virus herself. But that has not dampened her spirits and she wants to jump right back in.
On 28 January, some good news was delivered amid the bleakness of the coronavirus pandemic, when 93-year-old Thomas and 88-year-old Mariyamma, who were seeking treatment at Kottayam Medical College made a full recovery. Reshma left for her home to observe the mandatory home quarantine for 14 days. However, she soon developed symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 herself.
Taking treatment, she has now recovered from the disease.
On 3 April, with a wide grin apparent underneath the mask, Reshma waved goodbye to the hospital staff and told them, “I will be back very soon.”
The elderly couple whom Reshma treated was among the nine members of a family that was affected by coronavirus.
Since the two were high-risk patients, given their age and underlying conditions like diabetes, urinary infection, and hypertension, they were shifted from Pathanamthitta to Kottayam Medical College Hospital.
“They were really scared. I am the first healthcare worker they were in contact with. So they were panicking and scared that this virus had spread so rapidly. I explained to them that they needn't fear and having the virus didn't mean they would die. This was just like any other disease,” Reshma told The Quint.
Thomas had even endured a heart attack during the treatment. “At one point of time, they were in a very critical condition. Through the special treatment at the Kottayam Medical College Hospital, we could bring them back to life from the brink of death,” Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja wrote in a Facebook post.
“Thomas had chest pain from the beginning. As there were chances of heart disease, they were shifted to VIP rooms in the ICU. They were made to stay in different rooms, which they seemed disappointed by. Later, we shifted them to the transplant ICU where they could see each other. Thomas was shifted to ventilator support in between as his condition deteriorated,” read the post.
‘Chatting With Them Was the Way to Their Hearts’
From the first day, Reshma knew that the couple required extra attention and she was given the specific task of taking care of the elderly in the COVID-19 ward. “It was very difficult to first make them understand the problem, to make them eat food. They were acting like children and being adamant they wanted to go home. They were refusing to eat food. Sometimes they would say ‘I will eat only dosa in the morning,’” she recounted.
She had to step in and be their family.
"“So I started talking to them a lot. And they loved chatting. And I realised that was the way to their hearts.”" - Reshma Mohandas, Nurse
Twenty-five nurses and 40 other healthcare workers helped treat the aged couple.
“Sometimes, they were adamant and refused food, demanding to go home. Though at times they did not cooperate with the nurses, the staff were patient enough to convince the aged couple. The nurses gave them a lot of love,” the health minister had said.
“I had close contact with them in the ICU because I was attending to their every need," Reshma told The Quint.
Phone Calls by Health Minister Offering Assurance
Reshma, who had completed her nursing training in Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala, is now residing with her husband and mother-in-law in Kottayam. “My husband is very strong just like me. But my mother-in-law was a little scared. I have been isolated inside a room in my house but still, my entire home has been quarantined,” she said.
Reshma attributed her calm during this pandemic to Kerala’s healthcare system. “It is brilliant especially with respect to the coordination, from ministers to the chief minister or health minister, they make sure to be a part of every step and are very supportive and assure us that they are with us at every step,” she said.
"“When my results came as positive, the health minister called me and spoke at length. ‘The entire healthcare team is with you. You have nothing to worry. We will all support you,’ she said.”" - Reshma Mohandas, Nurse
Spoke to #Kerala nurse who tested positive after she treated oldest #COVIDー19 patients,93-yr-old Thomas & 88-yr-old Mariyamma— Smitha T K (@smitha_tk) April 9, 2020
Today she has recovered & cannot wait to go back to serve patients.
This is a video of her getting discharged amidst cheers & claps.
What a strong woman! pic.twitter.com/Xg9uOPWrYv
She added that it was such a kind gesture by the health minister to actually call almost every positive patient and assure them all will be fine soon.
With a cheerful and optimistic tone, she ended the phone call saying, “Stay home and stay healthy.”
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