Kathmandu: While many of her relatives and friends have been worrying about her health and safety, she has been on the frontline providing relief, comfort, and reassurance to the people who are gasping for breath, struggling for life, and bearing untold suffering and pains due to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Dr Kundu Shrestha, a consultant anesthesiologist and critical care specialist, and currently an ICU team leader at Nepal Armed Police Force Hospital in Balambu, has been providing service tirelessly since the pandemic started.
The APF Hospital is among the first designated hospitals for Covid-19 in Nepal. Health professionals here have been providing treatment to the patients for a year now.
Her work requires her to exhaust herself physically and mentally. “Workload, patient flow, and my duty. It’s really very hectic, especially after the second wave of coronavirus,” she shared her feelings with Nepal Live Today. “The number of patients is increasing daily.” “Every day, we look around the beds at the hospital and pray for the early recovery of all patients,” she said. She has an intense feeling of empathy when patients look at her with hope. “When patients start gasping or suffering, they look at us. They seem to be asking ‘when will I recover?’” We face such emotional moments almost all the time, she shared.
Though all the doctors and other medical staff under her guidance are working around the clock, all the things are not in our hands, she said. Sometimes, she feels helpless knowing that the hospital cannot accommodate all the patients who come there hoping to get beds, oxygen supplies, and care. “Due to the lack of ICU beds, many patients have to keep waiting and that causes their health to deteriorate even further,” said Shrestha in a remorseful tone.
“But we are trying our best to make the best out of this situation, our goal is to give good treatment to as many people as possible and I hope for the best,” she further explained. Even though she is striving forward with a strong will to help people get better, sometimes her emotions get the best of her. “We doctors are also emotional beings. Although I try my best to remain strong, there are some moments where I am not able to hold back my tears,” said Shrestha. “Sometimes it is out of pure happiness and sometimes it is out of a pure grievance.” Shrestha shared a particular incident that made her cry out of happiness and sadness.
‘Emotional rollercoaster I went through’
“I came across a patient 2 weeks ago while I was on my duty. The 28-year-old female was just transferred to the ICU at 11 pm because of her deteriorating situation due to Covid. I stepped outside to talk to the family. I saw her husband who was expecting to see his wife soon. He rushed towards me and asked me how she was. I could see the desperation in his eyes. Seeing him in that situation froze my heart. It was a highly emotional moment for me, but I held myself back for the sake of his strength. He looked me in the eye and asked me to do whatever I could to save his wife, not for him, not for anyone but for the six months old child she had mothered.
“We doctors are also emotional beings. Although I try my best to remain strong, there are some moments where I am not able to hold back my tears,” said Shrestha.
To hear that the patient under my observation had a six months old child waiting for her recovery. Tears welled up in my eyes. My emotions started exploding out of empathy for the child.
I braced myself, walked inside, and I looked at the mother. Her condition was terrible; she needed to be ventilated. She could barely utter a word but she gathered all the strength she had within herself and whispered. “Please save me for the sake of my child,” she said. That broke my heart. My eyesight turned blurry with tears, but I knew I couldn’t break down. I was her only hope, and I could not snatch that away from her, so I held back my tears, and I ventilated her. I held my tears back until I was alone. I could not cry in front of my colleagues either. They were facing these emotions too. Once I was alone, I couldn’t help it. I broke down. She stayed under ventilator care for five to six days and got better. Better enough to be discharged and go back to her family. The smile she and her family had on their faces gave me tears of joy. They thanked me with all their gratitude. I am unable to explain the amount of happiness that gave me. This is where I cried again, and this time, they were happy tears.”
Dr Kundu lives with such emotional moments every day. But she does not allow these emotions to stop her from fulfilling her duty. “I should appear like a rock for my team and my patients. If I fall apart, many lives are going to be at risk, therefore, I hold my tears back, and I keep going. I don’t let my emotions interrupt my duty.”
While Dr Kundu has patients to take care of in the hospital, she has her parents to be worried about too. “They both have some medical conditions and the ongoing medication makes their immune system a bit weak. I am worried that they might get infected because of me,” she shared. She has not touched them for months. “I have not been in physical touch with them for almost nine months.” “But I have to make this sacrifice in order to keep them safe and to save my patients.”
Dr Kundu has words of advice to us all: Stay safe and prevent the virus from spreading. The more we follow the Covid protocol, the easier it will be for us to control and prevent infection.
Yet, she is grateful for being able to help people through her work in this time of crisis. “I am really thankful towards the government for giving this opportunity to treat people and for starting these Covid dedicated hospitals,” she acknowledged. “In the last wave, our services were limited but now we have access to more services.”
Dr Kundu has words of advice for us all: Stay safe and prevent the virus from spreading. The more we follow the Covid protocol, the easier it will be for us to control and prevent infection.
Narayan Adhikari, a researcher on security issues, has closely watched how professionals in APF Hospital are doing the best to provide treatment to the Covid patients. “Our doctors, nurses, health workers, and frontline workers are doing an incredible job to save people from this pandemic,” he said. “They are the real Covid warriors.”
He demanded that the government should recognize these heroes as Covid warriors and give them deserved honor. “We should give full respect to these brave soldiers. Besides, the government should provide enough resources to the Armed Police Force so that they can provide better care to the patients in their hospital,” he said.