When she was informed that she would be in charge of taking care of the 14 Italian tourists with suspected coronavirus infection at Gurgaon’s Medanta Hospital, 42-year-old Dr Sushila Kataria’s first response was, “Let’s do it.”
It was at 1 pm on March 4 that the hospital administration was informed that the group was being sent there. Over the next five hours, hectic arrangements were made to create a special isolation ward — and a team of doctors, nurses, and paramedics worked to figure out the protocol on how to proceed. Dr Kataria, director of internal medicine at the hospital, was given the task of coordinating.
All the 14 patients were above 65 years of age. “When they reached at 6 pm, there was apprehension, anxiety and endless questions about the virus, the test and the treatment. Only two of them could understand English, if we spoke slowly. The first thing they asked for was ‘connectivity’,” she told The Sunday Express.
The 14 patients had to be quarantined because another person they were travelling with in Jaipur tested positive for the coronavirus.
“All this is new for us as well. We hadn’t seen any cases of COVID-19 before this, but we in the medical profession can’t shy away from this. My job is to serve, and I cannot hesitate in doing it,” said Dr Kataria, who has been with the hospital since 2010.
Over the last 17 days, Dr Kataria has been spending most of her time in the hospital. “As soon as I got to know about the patients, I made a call to my husband and explained the situation. He is suffering from inflammatory arthritis and has moved to a separate farmhouse in Gurgaon. He was very supportive; I haven’t met him since then, but we are connected through WhatsApp and calls,” she said.
While her husband has moved to a different location, her 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter are still staying with her. Dr Kataria, though, is living in a separate room. “It’s like we are living in different houses. I have a room that has its own entry and exit. My kids are in their separate rooms. We don’t meet, or eat together. I can’t even touch the knobs of their doors,” she said.
Explaining the situation to her children, she said, was a challenge. “It was so hard. I could see questions on my daughter’s face. the first question from my daughter was, ‘Why you, mamma?’,” Dr Kataria said.
On Saturday afternoon, one of the Italians, a 68-year-old man, was discharged from the hospital after he tested negative for COVID-19. The remaining 13 too have tested negative and are still under observation at the hospital, a Medanta spokesperson said. A whole floor has been dedicated for their treatment — all common entry and exits have been blocked and there is only one entry/exit for medical staff. The area is divided into two — ‘clean’ and ‘infected’.
Staff are allowed to enter the ‘infected’ area only after wearing the PPE (personal protective equipment), hand gloves, mask and a hazmat (hazardous materials) suit. One has to keep one’s phones at the ‘clean’ area, change clothes and then step into the ‘infected’ area.
While interaction was a challenge initially, things got easier with time. “We all are trying to talk to each other. I have even learned some Italian words such as ciao (hello) and grazie (thank you). And if something is missing, we rely on the Google translator,” Dr Kataria said.
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