Children Health

COVID-19 and isolation! | by Snoozy_dogmomma | Jan, 2024

COVID-19 and isolation!

It was July 2020 and I was scheduled to start my COVID ICU rotation.

In India, we had been observing the plight of healthcare workers, the inadequacy of PPE, and the plight of patients stricken with moderate/severe COVID.

While I was looking forward to being at the frontline, a part of me was nervous. I worried whether I would be up to the challenge. I worried whether I would be enough for my patients.

The first shift of my first day started at 9 pm IST. I hesitated as I entered the donning area. I shakily put on my personal protective equipment and soon enough my goggles were fogging and I could barely breathe. I had already read about these challenges and I was mentally prepared to work in less than ideal circumstances.

Through the fog, I walked into the ICU, into a sea of walking, talking personal protective equipments. The only way to tell one PPE from another was by the name and designation scribbled on the suits. If one ever felt that medicine was impersonal, COVID-19 amplified that feeling beyond measure.

I had patients of all sizes, shapes, colors, castes, religions, personalities, and ages. I had patients with all sorts of diagnoses. The COVID-19 illness could be primary or could be adjacent to the other comorbidities.

While I experienced anonymity during my six-hour shift, this was the persistent plight of patients in a COVID-19 ICU. Those patients who were intubated and mechanically ventilated were possibly the most at ease, in my opinion.

My heart bled for those patients who were conscious, yet too sick to move around. They needed help to perform their daily ablutions and were at the mercy of an already overburdened system. I saw patients who just wanted to urinate and couldn’t call out for help, because they were breathless.

I saw patients breaking down due to the isolation and the impersonal environment. I saw patients weeping because they wanted to go home. We all tried our best to speak to these patients. However, when one has to choose between impending respiratory arrest and chicken soup for the soul, one runs out of options.

While each patient’s misery was palpable and punishing, I will never be able to forget the faces of two children who came into our ICU.

One of these patients was a six-year-old who walked into the ICU, alone and unsure. He wore a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. His fingers kept fidgeting as he found himself in alien surroundings. His COVID illness was incidental but he had an underlying liver condition. He was stable but we couldn’t take any chances. It was heartbreaking to watch him attempt to take up the least possible space on the huge adult hospital bed. He complied with all treatment modalities, but one could see the anxiety that was so common in the eyes of a COVID-19 patient. We could try to explain his situation to him, but nothing would supplant being in his comfort zone (Whatever that may be to him!). As I got ready to finish my shift, he remained there, quiet and cowering.

The other patient was not primarily assigned to me. I chanced upon him. I was in a tearing hurry to do a blood gas analysis when I heard the wailing of a child. I looked around desperately and found a four-year-old. His head was his prominent part, while the rest of him was emaciated due to a malignancy that he was dueling with. Sadly, he was afflicted with COVID-19 as he received treatment for his cancer. He too was in the ICU due to his coexistent condition. I asked him why he was crying. He initially wouldn’t make eye contact. He just lay there with the quivering lips and the tear-filled eyes. After a lot of cajoling, he finally whispered, “I want tea”. Something as simple as this filled him with such despair!

This may seem trivial to able-bodied individuals. However, I can’t even begin to explain the extent of disillusionment. I can not begin to explain the emotional asphyxiation that COVID-19 caused. I cannot begin to fathom the scars that still remain.

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