Doctor Diary, Day 2: “Today, We Have a New Kind of PPE. I Was Drenched in Sweat After Two Hours.”
A 28-year-old anesthetist working in the Covid19 I.C.U ward of a private Mumbai hospital, currently run by the BMC, shares the ups and downs of her days on the frontlines fighting the Covid19 pandemic. This is the second installment of a daily diary she shares with The Swaddle.
Nightfall: Going to work On the bus headed to the hospital, it looked like the I.C.U. was stable. Today, especially, I’m so happy that people have texted in about the doctor diary. Medicos are saying they relate. And non-medicos are saying they are now able to understand. Having all this love means the world to me.
At work, we got a few drugs that were donated to the hospital. We’re using them on a trial basis in the hospital’s I.C.U. We have some patients who are on the ventilator today. They aren’t doing well. Sitting at my desk outside the I.C.U, my colleagues and I talked about ventilatory strategies and drugs being touted as miracle cures. We talked about what could be going wrong with our ventilation strategies, what else we could do in our capacity.
During night shifts, there are no seniors on campus, so we are the senior-most and have to be responsible for everything we do. Things also seem to go bad in the night more often, for reasons I can’t understand. But it’s always the case. I prefer days since I always have some supervision, so it feels somewhat safe, I guess. But I’m quite used to night shifts. And now, we don’t work the next morning as we used to in residency. So it’s not at all bad. Knowing you have the day off the next day helps.
Midnight: Doing rounds Today, we have a new kind of PPE. I was drenched in sweat after two hours. It’s a new make, thinner and more plastic. It felt comfortable initially but I was soaked later. My juniors who work longer hours in that PPE say it makes them tired and dehydrated. I admire the residents and staff who pull through wearing these for long. We usually don the PPE in an area close to my desk outside the I.C.U, and doff in the last cubicle inside.
Two patients are quite bad today. One of them died. He hadn’t been doing well for a few days now. He had diabetes and also heart disease. He had had angioplasty as well. I was more primed this time. I informed the relatives. I think they were quite prepared. They asked me about the formalities briskly. It made me feel less terrible.
Early morning: Getting rest We got some chai nashta around 1:45 a.m. It feels better. Today, it was bread upma. I sat with some of the nursing staff and my juniors who were scheduled for the 2 – 8 a.m. shift in a room next door where we usually eat. It helps us unwind and also get our shot of energy in those wee hours.
Around 4 a.m., I gave my seniors an update. It looked better today. A lot of patients were doing okay. But all that changes very fast; it’s dynamic. I usually call them if there is anything significant. If not, I leave a text a couple of times every shift. I was close to dozing off at my desk. Today, there was nothing active, so I could sleep. There are a few beds lying inside where I just crashed, at around 5 a.m. They’re basically old I.C.Us that are defunct now. We store stuff there and also have a few beds. It’s the same place we eat.
Morning: Ending the shift I woke up at 6:30 a.m. Another person was doing rounds so I sat at my desk idle until it was time for my bus to go home. In the meantime, I chatted a lot with my juniors over hide and seek biscuits that we got at 7 a.m. About things unrelated to work, college gossip. It felt like normal times.
I’m a little tired but overall not as traumatized as last time. Maybe I’m getting used to it. Or maybe it’s how we were primed to the patient’s bad prognosis today.
Morning: Being home I’ll shower now. It’s a stupid thing but it’s a pain to wash your hair everyday. It’s the practice now with Covid19 duties. And we sweat a lot. I feel like getting rid of it all. Later, I’ll go to my colleague’s room to get breakfast. She has night duty tonight, so we’ll talk about my night. It might help her. Then, I’ll call my parents, my best friend, and my fiancé. Then I’ll crash, possibly skip lunch and wake up to a new day sans regrets.
My fiancé might even come over later to drop a few things and chat at a one-metre distance in the lobby. So that’s something I am looking forward to. He had come down last weekend before I started my fresh round of duties. So it hasn’t been long since I’ve seen him. But it’s sad for people who have family very far away. I’m lucky to have my new family so close by. Although my friends are also my family. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
As told to Rajvi Desai.