By T.J.S. George
So, a mere virus is enough to bring humanity on its knees. The phrase “mere virus” may be an understatement in the present context, for corona has not only changed everybody’s lifestyle but is changing also the way society functions. Life is teaching us that an invisible invader, ten-thousandth of a millimetre in diameter, can turn us into helpless nobodies. Even hospitals are not safe havens as I realised in the last two weeks.
I happened to be in a hospital when the corona crisis unravelled and lockdown became the way of life. I was not a patient, but attender to a patient. Naidu Memorial was an excellent hospital with excellent facilities and the patient could not have wished for a more competent medical team to take care of her. But it was a hospital. The world inside a hospital is a different kind of world. While it gives you refuge, it also reminds you that you are fundamentally helpless.
Even in the best of hospitals that sentiment prevails. The patient I was attending had a good room with all facilities, from television to airconditioning. The verandah outside was spacious —which mattered because that was often my refuge when nurses went inside to attend to the patient for a variety of reasons.
It was the team of nurses that made the real difference. They were a bunch of young girls. It was very clear that they were professionally well trained. But it was their human nature that made them special. When the monotony of the bed made the patient bored, when things like undulating mattresses and inflated mattresses made her feel strange, the ever-smiling nurses made all the discomfort go away. It was a good time to remember the saying: “Save one life, you are a hero. Save a hundred lives, you are a nurse.”
The care and attention you get in a hospital may sometimes seem too much. From dawn to midnight, they come in to take blood pressure, blood samples and various other counts with various kinds of instruments. Not a moment passes without your feeling that you are in a hospital. Add to it the scientifically bland nature of hospital food. It’s clinically the ideal nourishment for the patient, but the patient needs to do some jugglery with her taste buds in order to enjoy it. Not impossible, but an effort has to be made.
Doctors understand such inevitabilities. That must be one reason they recommend discharge from hospitals as soon as possible. Our doctor kept reminding us that hospital air was best avoided. I saw the reason the day our patient was shifted from hospital to home. Magically, as it were, her condition improved. No doubt psychology was an active factor. After all, home is home and its therapeutic effect is without parallel.
These days the easy availability of home nursing services is an incentive for patients to prefer home. But beware. These services may not be what you expect. Based on recommendations, we engaged one company and they sent a nurse home the same evening with the understanding that she would stay in the house and avoid daily commuting because of corona-virus implications. She was pleasant when she arrived. Within a few hours, however, her mood changed.
She seemed to remember rather suddenly that she was two days into her periods and that she would be better off with her mother. Off she went.
The experience made me aware of the horrendous inadequacies of our public health system. It is now known that we do not even have the facilities — or the policy awareness — to carry out testing. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, only 2,000 tests were conducted in the first two days of the lockdown. This rose to nearly 35,000 in the next few days, but what is that number in a country of 1,387,297,452 people (as of January 1, 2020).
The sudden and unplanned nature of the lockdown made things worse with hundreds of thousands of people rendered jobless. The way they trekked home and crowded into the bus stations in Delhi could only have expanded the scope of the corona catastrophe. How will people cope with a danger they are unfamiliar with? Which way can they turn? When I look at the larger picture, the challenges I faced with one sick person in the family seem minor. In the south of India, we are better off with a quality of life — and services — that separates the south from the rest of India. Gracias.