Mumbai: 'My last wish was not to be put on ventilator support,' says Shatabdi hospital employee

Updated: Jun 26, 2020, 08:07 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Shatabdi hospital chief medical superintendent shares with mid-day how she emerged victorious in her battle against the novel Coronavirus

Dr Alka Mane (centre) outside the Jogeshwari Trauma centre after being discharged in the first week of June
Dr Alka Mane (centre) outside the Jogeshwari Trauma centre after being discharged in the first week of June

Over 2,000 civic employees, including health workers, on the frontline in the war against the novel Coronavirus pandemic have contracted COVID-19 over the past few months, with close to 1,000 still undergoing treatment.

"So far, 2,028 civic staffers, including technicians, clerks, sweepers, have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,103 of them have recovered, while 925 are still undergoing treatment. Unfortunately, 78 succumbed to the disease," highly placed BMC officials told mid-day.

mid-day spoke of chief medical superintendent, Shatabdi hospital, Govandi, to understand the struggle of the frontline workers. Dr Alka Mane, 56, who was working round the clock amid the COVID-19 crisis, got herself tested on May 14 and her report came back positive two day later.

Dr Mane emerged victorious in her fight against COVID-19, despite having comorbidities. She is still on high doses of steroids to improve her lung health. A patient of hypertension for the past 28 years, she narrates her battle with the virus, while speaking to mid-day from her Seawoods apartment.

"Shatabdi, Govandi, was handling routine cases, including deliveries, in March and April. Though five to six mothers tested positive for COVID-19, none of the newborns showed any symptoms. The mothers were sent to dedicated COVID-19 hospitals for treatment."

Later, a decision was taken to suspend the maternity services at the hospital. But, being an administrative in-charge, I continued to interact with other patients and their relatives. Soon, the entire hospital was converted into a 100-bed COVID facility, sans ICU, for swab collection. Patients were referred to Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar or Bhabha Hospital in Kurla when their reports would come back negative.

We all woke up with fever

Dr Alka Mane, chief medical superintendent, Shatabdi hospital, GovandiDr Alka Mane, chief medical superintendent, Shatabdi hospital, Govandi

With the hospital handling the COVID-19 crisis, Dr Mane temporarily moved in with her brother and his family at Chembur. "On the wee hours of May 14, my brother, who had undergone an angiography four years ago, my 17-year-old niece and I woke up with high fever," she said. "We got ourselves admitted at Shatabdi hospital. We felt better in a couple of days," she added. "But, on May 25, I could feel respiratory distress. I immediately got an x-ray done, which confirmed that I had bilateral pneumonia. The condition of my brother and niece improved."

"The sign of bilateral pneumonia was not good and I needed to be shifted to ICU. The team looking after me spoke at Jogeshwari Trauma hospital. On the way there in an ambulance, I could sense the heaviness as I struggled to breath and was put on oxygen support," she recalled. "A CT scan confirmed the bilateral pneumonia and I was shifted to the ICU. I had only one request to the treating doctors, under any circumstances, they should not put me on ventilator support, and that should be considered my last wish." "I was put on a non-invasive ventilator support, pumping almost six litres of oxygen into my body. Luckily, I was out of the ICU the next day itself. I was then put on oxygen support and steroid treatment was started, along with breathing exercises," she said. She was discharged in the first week of June.

Lesson learnt

This battle with COVID-19 made me realise that only the civic body could have managed to handle such a pandemic, with the existing infrastructure and team of dedicated staff, she said. "All the subsequent COVDI-19 tests have come back negative. It is difficult to avoid getting infected, but it can be prevented by taking adequate safety measures," she said.

"Also I learnt about my enzyme deficiency while being treated for COVID-19," she said. "Never get scared if you get a test positive for COVID-19 or if you develop symptoms. The more you get nervous and worried, the more difficult it becomes to recover from the ailment. The best way is to keep a positive attitude and remain calm, it does wonders."

COVID-19 will be with us, hereafter, as it is a new virus, and even health experts and healthcare workers' bodies are not immune. It is deadlier than H1N1 or any other viruses.

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