Story of a Covid-19 frontliner

I am an HD nurse working in JDWNRH, Thimphu. I have just completed my quarantine after Covid-19 duty at isolation ward. And this is a story of Covid-19 health care team 2020.

After live broadcast of the first case in the country on March 6, a sudden silence descended in Thimphu. We felt vulnerable and were shaken to the core.

As a health care professional, I was called to attend a two-week intensive care training in preparation for the Covid-19 duty. We had a series of meetings to plan and formulate protocols should there be Covid-19 patients needing hemodialysis in Bhutan.

The duty itself was difficult with extremely sophisticated PPE (personal protective equipment). Sometimes, I was more afraid of PPE than the virus. Donning and doffing (removal of PPE) of PPE was one of scariest tasks, especially of doffing. Because any complacency could lead to infection, I was always worried.

On the first day, it took me 20 minutes to get ready because of strict checklists for donning PPE—coverall, respiratory mask/N95, surgical gloves, OT cap, gumboots, shoe covers, face shield/ goggles), and adult size diaper, too. Morning shift began from 8am to 2pm, evening shift from 2pm to 8pm, night shift from 8pm to 8am.

Coming in contact with our patients and communicating with them in very positive way were some of the memorable first day experiences. I wonder if they were more worried and afraid just by seeing us dress in PPE. And, of course, it was tiring and uncomfortable to communicate and perform procedures with PPE. But we got used to it. The whole things became much more relaxed and comfortable.

One of the positive things about Covid-19 patients is that they are all young, energetic and brave. Such attributes matter. Almost all of them during my time were asymptomatic and if they are asymptomatic, they are treated with just vitamin C and zinc sulphate supplement. We monitor their vitals and temperatures routinely, collect blood samples, PCR sample, dispatch them and collect the report. We provide them meals. All meals are therapeutic, prepared by dieticians.

But our role did not end there. We had to provide them emotional support and comfort; we were all fighters against a dangerous enemy. We were able to keep our patients comfortable and confident. We became their ultimate primary care provider and source of comfort.

It gave us immense joy to see our patients leaving the isolation ward with a big smile after negative report. Every time when I walk in to take PCR sample, I said a prayer and encouraged the patients to pray also. It would sound strange in different circumstances, I know, but prayers gave us strength.

Doctors, nurses, paramedics and supporting staff, we are the ultimate primary frontliners, who are in direct contact with patients. There is always the danger of contracting the virus even with sophisticated PPE.

We will never forget the 14 days in the Covid-19 ward and our experiences. After 14 days in the ward, we had to quarantine ourselves. But I can only speak for myself. If there is another call, I am ready for the job again. I feel proud to have served my King and country in such difficult times.

Contributed by Sonam Gyeltshen 

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