BEST driver who ferried essential workers fought COVID-19 for 65 days

Updated: 15 September, 2020 11:21 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

BEST driver Paikade was on ventilator support in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for about 17 days

The BEST bus driver ferried hospital staff, police personnel, and government staff among others
The BEST bus driver ferried hospital staff, police personnel, and government staff among others

Amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city, a 55-year-old BEST bus driver Dilip Paikade has become a real-life hero after he spent over 65 days in hospital battling the deadly virus.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, BEST driver Paikade was on ventilator support in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for about 17 days. A resident of Bhandup, Paikade works as a Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) driver and is posted at Majas depot in Goregaon.

During the COVID-19 enforced lockdown period, Paikade operated bus services for essential workers and passengers after the state government resumed bus services in the city on June 8. "I would go to work with my mask and gloves and would use it throughout my eight-hour shift," said Dilip Paikade.

However, on June 20, Paikade woke up with fever and body pain which persisted even after taking medication. As his symptoms persisted, Paikade approached a government hospital in Mulund. Unfortunately, his COVID-19 report came positive and soon Paikade started having difficulty in breathing.

Paikade informed his son, who is studying medicine in New Delhi, who in return informed senior BEST officials and Paikade was admitted to the COVID-19 isolation facility at Seven Hills hospital in Andheri.

"The minute I reached Seven hills hospital, the doctor gave me oxygen as I was completely out of breath. I do not remember anything much after that. I remember the doctor saying mine is a critical case. I was put on a ventilator for 17 days," Paikade recalls.

During his treatment, Paikade's wife had also tested positive and was kept at a quarantine centre where she recovered. While Paikade and his wife live in Mumbai their children reside outside the city.

Talking about his ordeal, Paikade says, "It was very lonely and emotionally draining. I had not prepared for anything but my family gave me strength. My son is studying medicine which is why I was positive after speaking to him."

Senior BEST officials lauded Paikade's courage and said that his positive outlook motivated many others. BEST spokesperson Manoj Varade said, "He has been positive and courageous. Despite spending 65 days in the hospital and on the ventilator, he has encouraged other BEST employees."

Paikade is yet to recover completely and has difficulty in breathing while climbing stairs.

Paikade said he isn't thinking of resuming work yet. "I will have to recover fully and will decide then. The doctor has told me it will take eight months to fully recover but I am positive. I step outside only to get medicines or for any important work," adds Paikade.

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  • 1/16

    The coronavirus outbreak has brought Mumbai to a standstill with its lifeline, the local trains having been halted since March 20. At a time like this, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses have become the city's new lifeline providing transportation services to essential workers and thousands of Mumbaikars 

  • 2/16

    The BEST buses, which is run by the the civic transport body has been operating special services on Mumbai roads to ferry hospital staff, police personnel, and government staff among others.

  • 3/16

    On an average, the BEST is running over 1,000 buses with over 5,000 BEST staff comprising conductors, drivers, bus inspectors and bus starters reporting for daily duties. What's more? Most of the BEST staff have cancelled their leaves and weekly-offs in order to provide emergency services when Mumbai is under lockdown.

  • 4/16

    In photo: A police personnel controls the crowd trying to board buses in Mumbai

  • 5/16

    While the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation have been ferrying passengers from railway stations beyond municipal limits to a changeover point, the BEST buses are operating on different routes from the changeover points to various locations across the city. While speaking to mid-day, an official said that BEST buses are being spotted at places like Badlapur and Dombivli and they are ferrying essential staff as per demands in absence the of local trains.

  • 6/16

    Talking about how BEST is keeping Mumbai up and running, BEST Committee member Shrikant Kawthankar said that there are many services that need manpower and BEST is doing it just to keep the spirit of Mumbai alive.

  • 7/16

    In order to ensure hassle-free travel for essential services workers such as hospital staff, media personnel, and policemen, the state government made BEST services free of cost. 

  • 8/16

    In photo: A BMC staff walks past a BEST bus stop which displays an awareness message against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

  • 9/16

    Before hitting the roads, the BEST buses are regularly sanitised by the garage staff and the buses are thoroughly checked by the mechanics to ensure there are no faults. A BEST team also checks the body temperature of every staff before they begin the duty. Besides drivers and conductors, over 250 bus inspectors and nearly 100 garage staff have also joined the battle against coronavirus by reporting to work everyday.

  • 10/16

    While providing essential service of transportation, the BEST is also creating awareness among citizens about coronavirus. BEST spokesperson Manoj Varade said that as a preventive measure, the BEST will appeal commuters against standee travel in its buses and request them to take social distancing seriously.

  • 11/16

    Talking about the precautions a BEST spokesperson told mid-day, "All the buses are properly sanitised and proper care of the staff working on the buses have been taken. As a general precaution, BEST ensures that the buses are sanitised everyday before they are put in service. Sanitisers have been provided at all the depots, bus terminus etc. The bus conductors have also been asked to cover their mouth properly."

  • 12/16

    In photo: A traffic police constable checks the Id cards of essential workers travelling in BEST buses amid lockdown in the city.

  • 13/16

    In a disheartening development, an employee of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) lost his life due to the coronavirus pandemic. BEST sources said that the employee of Electric Supply Branch had been admitted in a private hospital since March 16 as he had fever. He was detected positive for COVID-19 on April 2. 

  • 14/16

    After an employee of BEST succumbed to COVID-19 epidemic, the medical department of the civic run transport body asked all its staff members, who are suffering from diabetes, heart problems, kidney-ailments, asthma and cancer not to report to duty. While the 24 other staff members, who were in touch with the deceased and were earlier quarantined for over two weeks were declared "safe" to return to work.

  • 15/16

    In a noble move, the BEST converted its seven AC mini-buses into ambulances to help the city battle the coronavirus crisis. In an official statement, the BMC said that the 'semi-ambulances' will be used to ferry suspected coronavirus patients, or those who have only mild infection, to COVID-19 Care Centres. The AC mini-buses were converted by removing seats and building air-tight partitions at the Dadar workshop in order to protect drivers from any spread of infection.

  • 16/16

    In photo: A BEST mini AC bus which has been converted into an ambulance to fight against COVID-19 crisis.

First Published: 15 September, 2020 11:04 IST

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