Last March, millions of Indians had clapped and banged utensils to participate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationwide cheer fest for the nation’s doctors and healthcare workers. At the time, COVID-19 was a new danger to vulnerable human lives in which physicians in white protective suits replaced Khaki-clad soldiers in protecting the nation.
Over a year since PM Modi’s cheer fest for the nation’s healthcare workers, Indian doctors and medics are still sweating for at least 14 hours each day, covered head-to-toe in personal protection equipment (PPE) as they are now faced with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has bashed India. On 1 May 2021, India set another world record by reporting 401,993 new COVID cases in 24 hours along with a daily death toll of 3,000 – as per official numbers shared by the Ministry of Health.
The stressed health infrastructure of India right now is like that of a rickety stretcher – it is the only available option to carry a patient but with the risk of it crumbling altogether. Several doctors from across the country have sent out emergency alerts on social media – pleading with the government to help them with medical oxygen and drugs for COVID treatment amid a shortage crisis.
Talking to Sputnik, young doctor Arup Senapati from the city of Silchar in India’s tea state Assam, said in comparison to last year, the severity of COVID in 2021 has left hospital staff as well as patients and their families dealing with grave anxiety from one oxygen cylinder to the next. Senapati shot to fame last year, when a video clip of him dancing inside a COVID ward wearing a PPE kit went viral on social media, attracting the eyes of Bollywood stars as well as international news channels.
”This year, there is no mood to dance. There is no cheer left within to spread it with others. Under last year’s scenario I thought we were winning the battle, the daily cases and death tolls had begun to slide until the end of March of this year with the second wave hitting us. The overall situation is very disappointing for everybody associated with the medical community of India”, said the 35-year old doctor who does seven days of duty in a COVID ward and stays isolated for the next seven days before taking up another week’s shift at the Silchar Medical College.
Describing the present situation, Senapati said the second wave, which the Delhi High Court recently called an actual “tsunami”, is more sudden, with its peak growing in a very limited amount of time.
‘It means that this time we are dealing with a mutated COVID virus with more infectivity. If there will be such a rapid increase in new cases all of a sudden then of course our health system will witness a struggle with manpower, hospital bed availability, medicine supply, oxygen supply, and other problems. It is heartbreaking to tell so many families each day that they have lost their loved one to the virus. Inside the ward we witness so many patients take their last words, gasping for breath, chanting their last prayers. It takes a toll on the mental and emotional health of the hospital staff as well”, Senapati, who has also served as a medical officer in rural areas of Assam, added.
As per the frontline COVID warrior, the only motivation that is keeping Indian doctors going despite these extremely testing times is the satisfaction of watching patients being discharged after defeating coronavirus.
“When people get discharged they bless us – I am, in fact all Indian hospital workers, are on their toes for only these blessings at this point”, a misty-eyed Senapati said, outlining how COVID doctors – who take care of their patients for 14-21 days, end up forming personal relationships with them.
Recalling his own experience, Senapati told Sputnik about an elderly couple that was admitted to the hospital who would take care of him and other on-duty doctors as if they were their own children.
“They were infected with the virus, battling with life and they’d ask us doctors – how we were doing, had we eaten on time, did we sleep well. Talking to them would sometimes get so emotional under the given circumstances. They won over the battle and went back home with a recovery”, Senapati said.
With patients remaining on one bed for 14 days at a stretch, their idle, anxious minds create vivid hypothetical scenarios, which, in their moments of vulnerability, they end up sharing with the hospital staff, the “dancing doctor” revealed.
“I remember one patient in the COVID ward asking what would you do if this virus remains forever? I told him I will keep up my duty till my last breath – and its not just me, every responsible doctor thinks like that even under when the situation gets life threatening for themselves – like it is presently”, Senapati sighed.
While the original “Dancing Doctor of India” is waiting for a ray of hope to charge him up for another viral groove video, his legacy is being taken forward by more young doctors in other parts of the country.
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The Indian social networking space has now been transformed into a sphere where strangers are helping strangers find the necessary medical aid for unknown people – out of sheer humanity.
Help is just a text away in India right now.. everybody is ready to offer assistance. pic.twitter.com/aIVavWoPbt
— Radhika Parashar (@_RadhikaReports) May 2, 2021
After allowing mass gatherings at religious congregations and organising election rallies in five states – the Indian government is now trying hard to rectify the virus outbreak amid severe criticism.
Since Navjot Dahiya, the national vice president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), called PM Modi a “super spreader” of the second wave of the virus given the road shows he organised during assembly elections, a petition demanding the resignation of PM Modi citing him as a threat to national security and the citizens of India has picked up momentum in the country.
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Indians are questioning PM Modi’s vision of a “self-reliant India” when other countries, including Germany, the UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Russia, Pakistan, and Bhutan are rushing in necessary supplies to India.
Dr Senapati from Silchar, however, has reminded Indians that this is not the time to point fingers, because that would be the wrong kind of fight right now.
“Wear masks, be in social distancing among each other, help out people selflessly on social media by sharing contacts and leads, get vaccinated, donate plasma – do your part honestly and we will get out of this mess sooner than later”, Senapati requested, promising another amazing dance video as soon as the present situation improves and the infection curve bends.
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