Meghalaya nurse shares experience of year-long fight against COVID

"I had to stay in the COVID ward for six to seven hours in a PPE suit, which also means I could not relieve myself even if I urgently wanted to, nor could I quench my thirst until my shifts were over," she writes.
By Langhu Valentina | SHILLONG:

2020 a year to remember! Every year, on International Nurses Day, the world cheers the nursing personnel for their valour and heroism in saving lives and playing the role of the second angel to sick people who need the most in their darkest hours. This year, however, it was different and more hectic.

I believe every one of us has had our shared experiences navigating through the dreaded years of COVID-19 -- from the burden of piling enough ration stocks in our kitchen store to other essential household items that will last us a week. There is the agony of businesses shutting down which led to unemployment and displacement but leaving us with bills due for payment, besides protecting the family members from contracting the deadly coronavirus. However, the most painful and tragic thing to bear is the death of a family or friend who succumbed to this deadly virus.

It leaves us with a numb feeling and a vacuum in our hearts that cannot be mended easily. As a nurse by profession, when I was called for COVID duty, I went through a range of emotions. I was overwhelmed with fear, but fulfilling my responsibility as a caregiver was pertinent. 

The fear was whether I would be given enough protective measures when I have to come in direct contact with people who are infected with Coronavirus.

The moment I put on the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) suit, everything became blurred - sweat dripped down my face and body as I was covered from head to toe. 

I had to stay in the COVID ward for six to seven hours in a PPE suit, which also means I could not relieve myself even if I urgently wanted to, nor could I quench my thirst until my shifts were over.

From what I heard from other colleagues, some of our staffs had to wear diapers because they suffer from urinary tract infection and have problems holding their bladder for long hours. One of the first things we do on being released from our duties is - rush to the bathroom, followed by drinking water, taking a shower, filling our stomach and resting for a while - only to be awakened for the next shifts.

This is the routine we follow during these phases of COVID duty. Meanwhile, in the COVID ward, there is apprehensiveness of tackling patients who are sick with the contagious coronavirus disease, on the other hand, there are COVID positive pregnant women who come to the hospital for delivery. We make sure of their safe delivery and the moment the healthy babies are born, we immediately separate the babies from their mothers for a short time to prevent the baby from getting infected.

With the baby's first cry comes hope, joy and happiness in the atmosphere despite all the chaos and worrisome of this world. Perhaps this is the "call for the job" that we embrace with pride and dignity in our hearts leaving behind our matters and our beloved families who support us constantly in their prayers.

Throughout the lockdown, whenever I step out of home for duty, the old buzzing city street looks empty and ghostly, except for the wailing sound of the ambulance's siren. Sometimes in my night shift, I see security personnel on patrol duties or most of the time, none.

Initially, reports of health workers on COVID duties being molested and assaulted in various parts of the country sent chills down my spine but ultimately, I gathered courage and brushed off whatever fear was creeping into my mind. 

But nothing of that sort happened here, and for that reason, I thank God every day.

Apart from the professional front, I also have to share some funny experiences I had during the lockdown. Since almost everything was shut down except for essentials, taking care of one's skin and hair was very difficult with salons and parlours being shut. 

I had to purchase an orange gel peel-off masks along with an orange face wash to keep up with my skincare. 

The next day, I started the session without reading the label properly and I squeezed a hefty amount of gel from the tube on the tip of my finger, applied it all over my face and left it to dry as per the instructions provided in the brochure. After a few minutes, I patted my face to check if it’s time to peel off the mask.

To my astonishment, the gel was still wet. Only then I realized that I had mistakenly applied face wash gel instead of the peel-off mask gel - what a waste!

Looking back, I have come to realise that whatever happens in life and no matter the experiences - whether they are good, bad or ugly - there is always the humorous side to life and that story also needs telling. 

Every second and every minute counts! Let’s not forget to laugh even in the face of tragedy because there is a rainbow after every storm. 

(The writer is a nurse by profession. She works at NEIGRIHMS)

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