When the first Covid-19 positive patient had arrived at their hospital, Dr. Ashish Nandy was in a dilemma. He did not have a precise idea of how to proceed with the treatment.
“On March 2020, when the first Covid-19 patient arrived at our hospital, we were in a dilemma. While attending the patients at the emergency unit, I was thinking that I have to go for RT-PCR tests, to take paracetamol and to isolate myself at the guest room back home,” Dr. Nandy said.
“Those were the days of last year. But for the second wave this year, we were simply unprepared. I saw young able-bodied persons number more than twenty falling and dying before my eyes,” he added.
Dr. Ashish Nandy, the head of the emergency section of Paras Hospital at Gurugram, is one of the leading frontline workers against Covid-19 in the country.
He did his schooling and college in North Lakhimpur and Jorhat and graduated from Silchar Medical College.
He did his higher studies on emergency medicine from George Washington Univerity, US and served in Fortis Hospital Kolkata and Dhaka before joining Paras Hospital. Like every frontline worker against Covid-19 since last year, Dr. Nandi too saw the horror of the second wave from close range.
According to Nandi, Covid is a man-made virus that is powerful than the natural one and has fast mutating powerfully. It started from 2002 onwards with SAARS evolving over the years with a massive outbreak in late 2019. Since March last year in the national capital areas they had to fight the virus without knowing much about it, fighting with an unknown enemy without any arms—very much like the cavalry of the Light Brigade of Tennyson’s poem—with no outcome in sight.
The doctors and health workers too got infected with Covid-19 as there was no hitherto known protection mechanism. But the coming of RT-PCR tests, first at state hospitals followed by the private sector brought some protection measures. But for him, the last year’s wave was better as the death rate was less though positive cases soared. But the future was uncertain.
“We consoled everyone that it will be okay during the heat of the summer. But Covid spiked during summer. The presumption that the virus grows in winter also appeared to be a hypothesis following infections in lungs. By December last Covid disappeared from the national capital.
When vaccination against Covid was introduced in January this year Dr. Nandy took the jab and ruminated that whom should be prioritized for that. The first choice for doctors and healthcare workers to be vaccinated first was an experimental one. Many took the jabs willingly and others with reluctance.
But all of a sudden, Dr. Nandi witnessed the collapse and death of 27 patients on April 14 this year within 24 hours in his hospital. The following developments made him remain without sleep for 25 consecutive days. “It was simply unthinkable that one day oxygen, ventilation would get exhausted,” said Dr. Nandi, adding “It was just horrible”.
During the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, people rushed to me and said, “Provide us some oxygen, otherwise, we will die,” recalls Dr. Nandi.
At that time there was a realization that naturally, available oxygen would become so scarce. It was something like that thing which had been not important for us suddenly become important. The demand for oxygen at his hospital suddenly soared to 100%. Amidst such an atmosphere of apocalyptic proportion, Dr. Nandi counseled and consoled many patients in home isolation to inhale oxygen by going under the open sky.
According to Dr. Nandi, the issue of oxygen is still critical albeit the status of its production and supply has improved. There are also concerns related to the production of the Covid vaccine and its preservation under minus 70 degree centigrade. Further, there is also the possibility of a third wave of the pandemic.
Dr. Nandi had observed that during the first wave of Covid-19 the situation was relatively better in Assam and the North East. He attributed it to the frequent use of Chloroquine in the region for frequent malaria outbreaks. However, the Covid infection rate increased later in this region.
The coexistence with nature, healthy lifestyle, less pollution, fresh food by the people of the Northeast has made them less vulnerable to the Covid pandemic than those from Delhi.
The toxic pollution, lack of pure air, unhealthy lifestyle, junk food, etc. have made the people of Delhi with weak immunity. Therefore return to nature is the most important way to fight any pandemic.
“Nature has given everything to men but men have given only plastic in return. And now nature is striking back with plastics in PPT kits,” said Dr. Nandi.
The response by Indian medical services is the key aspect that Dr Nandi has seen while tackling the challenge from Covid-19. Like the first wave, the country was not prepared for the second wave too. But it tried to cope up with.
In the first wave, India opted to lose its economy, unlike the US by imposing a total nationwide lockdown. Therefore, the death rate was much lower during the first time. This time the country has the experience of earlier lockdown and containing mechanism. With these India can bounce back in tackling the second wave of the pandemic, he said.