Dr. Sneha Pragada who has been on the frontline ever since the pandemic broke out, speaks about working in the COVID Zone and life’s lessons learnt.
By Dr. Sneha Pragada | Opening Doorz Editorial | June 20, 2020
A Junior Resident Doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Raipur, Dr. Sneha Pragada who has been on the frontline ever since the pandemic broke out, speaks about her work in the COVID Zone, the 14-day quarantine and the lessons learnt. Dr. Sneha is also working on participating in Beauty Pageants even as she studies for her Masters.
Opening Doorz gets Dr. Sneha Pragada to tell her story of life in the ‘COVID Zone’, during her 14-day quarantine.
Working in the COVID Zone…
I completed my Junior Residency at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Raipur on May 06. I was a bit sad because I did not get a chance to work in the COVID Zone. However, since the Lockdown was in force, my Residency got extended for three more months and I was given an opportunity and posted for duty at the COVID Zone.
I was in the COVID Screening/Sampling Zone for seven days. I’m so proud that I could contribute my part to society. There is nothing more satisfying for a doctor than being a help to a patient in the time of crisis. Although I was not qualified enough to treat them, I was happy that I could do my part in screening all the patients and also taking samples.
First day in the ‘Zone’…
The very first day of my duty began with joy and a little trepidation. I was inquisitive and was also taking precautions because there is a standard procedure to enter the ‘Zone’ wearing our protective wear. I came across many people who travelled from many places and also heard stories of grit. During those seven days of duty, I stayed in a separate room provided to me where the hospital took great care in providing food and other basic facilities.
The 12-hour duty was tiring not only because of the huge influx of patients everyday but also because care was taken in all the minutest details to avoid further spread of the contagion. It was tough as I had to scream at the top of my voice because we were at a distance of four feet with a plastic curtain between doctor and the patient. Not only me; everyone present would scream instructions to the patients.
There would also be an influx of COVID positive patients in ambulances from all corners of the state and everyone would run to first assess if the patient was stable or facing any breathing difficulties. Then we would immediately put the patient at ease and admit him or her.
All through my duty in the ‘Zone’ I never came in contact with any patient because proper protocol was being followed. For taking samples, we had to wear a PPE suit because taking nasal and throat swabs is risky if at all the patient is positive.
Life in the PPE Suit…
There is standard technique for donning and doffing a PPE suit which is done in the presence of an Infection Control Nurse. Any mistake in this technique can increase the risk of the spread of the virus. To be in a PPE suit is not only tiresome and irritating but also very dehydrating and to top it all, you keep gasping for breath. You’re completely drenched in sweat and your palms turn pale and are wrinkled once you are out of it. The only thing you like to do is take deep breaths because it is so suffocating. But the thrill of finishing my work in spite of these dire conditions beat all the trouble I faced wearing it.
Many doctors who work in the wards wear PPE suits for several hours with never a single complaint with a single motive to help patients. The central air-conditioner in the entire building is switched off to avoid the spread of virus through vents!
Patients, old and young…
I have seen many admissions of COVID positive patients during my time in the ‘Zone’. There was a case where a three-month-old child was positive but the mother was negative. COVID is throwing a curveball at the doctors like no one could imagine. It is very disheartening to see such young patients turning positive and even more when you hear a patient lost his battle to it.
During this duty, I experienced first-hand the struggles of many patients. I also saw the struggles of my colleagues and how their families were worried about them. My family was worried too, as I am the only child. However, they motivated me daily telling me how proud they are of me. This helped take away all the stress I was dealing with while in the ‘Zone’.
The 14-day quarantine…
After my duty was over, it was time to be quarantined for 14 days. During this time, we were not supposed to meet anyone. Everything was provided to us. It was a tough 14 days but we all indulged in our favourite hobbies. I decided to work on myself during this time in ‘exile’ and continued with my Cocoaberry online classes for pageantry. I also began preparing for my Master’s entrance exams. On the 12th day of our quarantine (June 15), it was time for us to get tested and samples were taken from our nose and throat. It was a very uncomfortable experience to have a swab shoved into my nose and throat. I could understand what the patients felt when I was taking their samples! The next day, I got the result and it was negative. Trust me; I was never so happy to be negative!
A few doctors did test positive which was quite disheartening but thankfully they are doing well and on their way for recovery.
Rediscovering self… keeping my promise!
This quarantine helped me rediscover myself and also helped me develop my skills to move forward in life. Many people asked me, “Weren’t you scared doing this duty?” My answer was always this: “Of course I was scared! But I’m scared of the virus not my work or responsibilities. I’m scared and I’m following all the precautions to avoid risking my life and also the lives of many people who might come in contact with me. But that doesn’t mean I run from my responsibilities.
I’m very good at keeping promises and I made a promise on the day of my Graduation and I will forever value it. On my Graduation Day I took the doctors oath which says, “I would use all my knowledge for the benefit of the sick and to serve mankind.”