On Wednesday, the daughter of a nursing officer from Delhi State Cancer Institute (DSCI) turned four. Typically, there would have been a small party at home — her eight-year-old son would have decorated their 2BHK house, while the birthday girl would have been gifted a new doll. Instead, the children and their mother spent the birthday inside a COVID-19 ward at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty hospital.
The nursing officer from Dilshad Garden’s DSCI is among 22 staffers who have tested positive for coronavirus. The test was conducted on April 3 and the result came on April 6, after which she reached Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital, with her children in tow. “My husband went to visit my mother in Pathanamthitta in Kerala, as she is unwell. Then the lockdown happened and he’s been unable to return home,” she said over the phone from the hospital bed.
She moved to Delhi from Pathanamthitta 15 years ago and began working as a nurse. A decade ago, she joined DSCI, where she works in the cancer ward. “From administering medicines to checking the catheter, IV tubes, listening to patients’ requests, explaining to their relatives about treatment and medicines… we do it all. Once I recover, I will go back to work. There is no other option,” she said.
“We work in three shifts — 8 am-2 pm, 2 pm-8 pm, 8 pm-8 am — and the roster keeps changing. All these years, I didn’t have to worry about the children because my husband would manage. When he left for Kerala mid-March, the house-help pitched in, but after the lockdown even she couldn’t come. So I would drop off the children to a friend’s house nearby and then go for my shift,” she said.
Once cases of DSCI staffers testing positive started emerging, she started getting nervous and the rules at home changed. “I would return home from my shift, immediately rush to the bathroom, take a bath, wash all clothes, and then see the children. I told them ‘no hugging mummy’… It’s hard to explain that to children. I am most worried about them,” she said.
After she tested positive, she had no choice but to take her children to the COVID ward with her. The siblings tested negative Wednesday. “I was on the phone all Wednesday, trying to find a place for them to stay since my husband is still stuck in Kerala. Finally, a friend took them in. Now I talk to them on video call. It’s hard, I worry for their safety, their health and diet, but I have started developing symptoms now — headache and cough. They can’t be around me,” she said.
She is one of 18 nursing officers and orderlies at DSCI to have tested positive for coronavirus. Speaking to The Indian Express, many of them had earlier alleged they were not given PPEs even after a doctor there tested positive.
She said she will return to nursing — a profession she fell in love with as a young girl in Pathanamthitta — and hoped that “the PPEs will be there”.
Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?