Kathmandu: “I am constantly surrounded by a looming sense of fear and helplessness,” says Dr Anusmriti Pal, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist who has been working at Karnali Academy of Health Sciences Teaching Hospital, Jumla, for the past 5 years.
The 42-year-old mother of two has been working tirelessly as a frontliner from the beginning of the pandemic. Her work is difficult but that does not deter her from taking care of her patients.
“It has been a hard time for all of us,” says Pal. The news of people losing their lives can be disturbing; having to watch patients die right in front of one is doubly so, she says.
As many as 30 patients need intensive care daily at the KAHS, according to Pal. “Due to the unsuitable topography of the Himalayan region, many people do not bother at all to travel all the way to our hospital,” she says. “They come only if they reckon hospital care is absolutely necessary.”
Every day, Pal looks after about 20 patients on average, of which two are currently in ventilation support, she informs. Rest of the patients are given intensive care with only one or two patients on ward.
Looking after patients with a maximum number of critical cases is not easy for her. “It is daunting to watch patients lose their lives slowly and not be able to do much about it,” she says.
“Please don’t go to the hospital mommy,” her children, aged four and nine, often beg her, scared of losing their mother. Hearing this from them is not easy for her.
They look at her with their eyes filled with hope. They and their family depend on her for saving their lives but it does not always turn out the way they want it to be.
Taking care of patients fighting death can be a jarring experience. Often she prepares herself for the worst. Other times, just when a patient shows signs that they will get better, their condition suddenly deteriorates, creating the worst results. Cases like that bring about an “emotional rollercoaster” experience for her–sudden happiness followed by bleak sadness.
This sense of tragedy never leaves her. She carries this emotional baggage with her wherever she goes, even home. She lives with her husband and their two children. “I love my children more than I love my life,” she says. She maintains precautions but it is not enough to make a mother stop worrying about her children. For her, it is hard to even think about the possibility of her family getting infected with the virus, after witnessing so many patients die in critical condition.
The worry goes both ways. “Please don’t go to the hospital mommy,” her children, aged four and nine, often beg her, scared of losing their mother. Hearing this from them is not easy for her.
She knows intimately the terror one feels when someone they love gets sick. She suggests everyone to maintain covid protocol and to visit the hospital in case of any difficulty.
After tending to her patients regularly, it’s hard not to get attached to them emotionally, she says. “The other difficult part,” she adds, “is to let the family know that their beloved is no more.”