COVID COVID everywhere, but not a place to run away from!

Anu Ranjani

Staff Nurse, Department of Emergency Medicine, Kauvery hospital, Chennai, India

“Don’t worry mom, we are safe”, I kept repeating over the phone to my anxious mother who was contemplating to take me home, scared of this pandemic.

As I walk down the corridors of the hospital, I heard the mention of COVID in every conversation, “What is the total number of cases today?”, “Do you think the vaccine works?”

When there was so much confusion going around everywhere, we at the Emergency Department, developed a standardised protocol to triage all suspected patients on priority and with precision, avoiding anxiety, fear, panic, or chaos.

This was something that gave me the confidence to walk down to the ED every day without fear. We triaged suspected COVID patients with fever, hypoxia, or breathing difficulty at the entrance and if found to fit the criteria we shifted them into the isolation room.

The isolation room was fully equipped with resuscitation bay, a crash cart, and two beds for the patients. We had set clear protocols for admission and discharge of COVID patients.

Initially, at the start of the pandemic, only the staff inside the isolation room wore complete PPE, but as the number of cases increased with a variety of atypical presentations knocking at our doors, slowly all of us inside the ED too wore the PPE.

We saw a variety of patients – those who were received in the triage, some who were accepted, some who fought with us for having suspecting them to have COVID, some who hid that they were COVID positive fearing isolation, and some who denied and lied about their symptoms and some who coughed on our faces unintentionally. We had seen it all and faced it all fearlessly.

With great effort, we maintained our cool, as we were committed to providing quality care to all our patients no matter who they were or where they came from. We always stuck to the protocols of the hospital which helped us treat patients more effectively. Many of us panicked when a few of our staff tested positive for COVID, but they were admitted and taken care bf by the doctors and supportive teams at the hospital.

The long hours of wearing PPE, with each breath fogging the visor, were difficult times for all of us and will always be etched into our memories for life. We were all sailing in the same boat, motivating each other, discussing our common concerns and encouraging ourselves that this pandemic shall end soon and we shall return to our normal lives soon.

Though my parents always wanted me to lead a life of dedication, service, and commitment, they ordered me to return home during the pandemic. They were concerned about my close proximity to COVID patients and the risk of developing this deadly disease. And despite all the precautionary measures taken, as a professional hazard, I too ended up testing positive for COVID. Those 14 days of “tasteless and odourless” living, with the feeling of tiredness and fatigue, were testing times but with prompt treatment and care from the doctors and management of the hospital, I was back on my feet again, totally energized to return to my duties as a nurse in the emergency, waiting to serve to my patients again.

All the nurses and paramedical staff were vaccinated and we were given regular updates on COVID care and protocols.

We all fought the great COVID battle together and we will forever be proud of our profession that we were able to serve people at the time of their most vulnerable and weakest moment. When their own family members weren’t beside them, we got to be their healing hands.

As Mother Teresa once said – “Hands that heal are greater than lips that pray”.

We, nurses, had the prayers of our families, friends, and colleagues to strengthen our hands. Together we fought this battle with our determined minds and big brave hearts.