Mental Health & The Frontline: Healthcare Workers on COVID Trauma
“The faces of the dead, they haunt you.”Dr. Harshil Shah, Resident Doctor, Rustom Narsee Cooper Hospital, Mumbai
513 doctors died in India's second COVID-19 wave as per the Indian Medical Association (IMA). At least 747 doctors died in our first wave in 2020.
Battling exhaustion, constant deaths and loss, lack of manpower and equipment and grief everywhere, how are resident doctors at the frontlines coping?
“Most of us have lost a family member, a friend or gotten ill ourselves. We are seeing deaths on a daily basis, we are not okay at all. We are humans and we also have families. We stand strong in the eye of the storm at the cost of our physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.”Dr Kamna Kakkar, MD Anaesthesiolog yResident Doctor, Post GraduateInstitute of Medical Sciences,Rohtak
‘We Are Human Too!’: Not Easy to Cope With a Crisis of This Scale
Dr Abhishek Tandon, a DM Resident (Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine) from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Jodhpur says, “They were numbers for everyone else, but they became names for us. hose names became faces. These faces are going to stay with us for the rest of our lives.”
Many doctors lost colleagues and families and suffered through COVID-19 themselves. “ I had COVID. I was in the ICU. I am asthmatic and I still work in a COVID facility,” says Dr Hansel Misquitta, a surgery resident at Sir HN reliance hospital, Mumbai. “We are hit physically and mentally. We are overburdened and exhausted.”
‘If We Don’t Do Our Duty, Who Will?
“At the time when the families are not with them, we have become their families. We have wiped their tears, we have held their hand, we have hugged them. We have not abandoned them.”Dr Hansel Misquitta, Surgery Resident, Mumbai
"As doctors we are trying our best to save lives, but our hands are tied since we can only do so much without resources,” she adds.
Forever Changed by the Pandemic
The panic of the second wave may have abated in urban areas, but the trauma of working the COVID-19 frontline lingers on.
“I don’t think we are going to come out of this pandemic in the same state that we were in last year.”Dr Abhishek TandonDM Resident (Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine)All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Jodhpur
The everyday losses and grief have become etched onto the memories of these young doctors, and many suffer from PTSD-like symptoms.
“I still think about the lost lives,” says Dr Harshil. “I hope with time, we can deal with it better. I don’t have an answer to how we are coping now. I'm sorry.”
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