Real Heroes of Coronavirus: COVID-19 patients need emotional support, says nurse Dhanashree Parab

Updated: Jun 05, 2020, 15:47 IST | Sunny Rodricks | Mumbai

Senior nurse Dhanashree Parab talks about the daunting task of handling COVID-19 patients in the fifth episode of 'Real Heroes of Coronavirus'

Senior Nurse Dhanashree Parab talks about her experience of dealing with COVID-19 patients in Mumbai
Senior Nurse Dhanashree Parab talks about her experience of dealing with COVID-19 patients in Mumbai

Corona heroesSenior Nurse Dhanashree Parab has been working at Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital for over 25 years. Parab is assigned with the critical task of handling COVID-19 patients in Jaslok. When coronavirus infected patients got admitted in the hospital for treatment, Parab took up the task to serve them. She overcame all challenges, putting her life at risk to care for the patients at a time when the pandemic wreaked havoc in Mumbai

In a candid chat with mid-day online, Dhanashree Parab talks about the challenges faced by COVID-19 nurses and what it feels like to be a corona warrior in the fight against the global pandemic.

Here's an excerpt from the interview.

How did your hospital prepare when news of coronavirus cases broke out in India?

When the first COVID-19 patient was detected in India, our hospital created awareness on coronavirus by organising lectures on the precautions, prevention and ways to deal with the virus. The doctors and ICMR nurses educated us about the global pandemic.

In March when the outbreak began in our country, the 12th floor of Jaslok hospital was converted into a dedicated zone for COVID-19 patients and I was given charge of the floor. We started with only three isolation rooms and soon the capacity was increased to a 9-bed isolation in a very short time. My responsibility was to prepare the floor for COVID-19 patients in quick time. With the help of my team and seniors, I got the COVID-19 ward ready within the deadline. We also stocked emergency medical supplies required to treat the COVID-19 patients.

In late March, the hospital had less positive cases but in April the number of positive patients increased as more people got infected in the city.

So what is the current status of COVID-19 patients at your hospital?

Currently, there are over 20 stable patients on the floor with few patients in critical ICU care unit. The hospital also has a dedicated area for suspected cases on the 14th floor with an ICU facility for the patients.

So far, nearly 85 COVID-19 patients have been admitted on the 12th floor, of which at least 50 per cent have successfully recovered from the deadly virus. Young people are recovering quickly while those with comorbidity take time, few are even admitted to ICU for special care.

Dhanashree Parab makes sure to attend the calls and update the relatives of COVID-19 patients about their health status

Share your experience of dealing with COVID-19 patients?

The novel coronavirus was new not only for the patients but even for the nurses and the healthcare community when the outbreak happened. When a COVID-19 patient is admitted to the hospital, they are kept in isolation. While ensuring that we strictly follow guidelines and health protocols required to treat the patients, the nursing staff also provides emotional support to the patients so that they don't feel lonely, 

Although relatives are not allowed, we receive calls from them inquiring about the health status of patients. On an average, I receive two to three calls from the relatives of COVID-19 patients daily.

What facilities did the hospital provide the nursing staff treating COVID-19 patients?

The hospital provided us with a lot of facilities. We were given prophylaxis medicine for prevention in March. Staff working in COVID-19 wards, have been provided accomodation and food services by the hospital. We have also been provided with PPE kit and other basic essential items. 

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A post shared by Jaslok Hospital (@jaslokhospital) onMay 29, 2020 at 12:19am PDT

Is there any kind of fear since you work as a COVID-19 nurse?

Being a mother and a wife, there is always a fear of my family getting infected because of me. At home, I stay isolated and maintain distance from my husband and children.

Can you tell us about the typical daily activities of a COVID-19 nurse?

We do a six-hour daily routine for a week and take a break in the following week. After one cycle, we are given non-COVID duty and after we complete it, post another week of rest, we are back to COVID-19 duty again.

A COVID-19 nurse's duty starts from 8 am in Jaslok with four shifts of 6 hours each in a day. We have to prepare ourselves before starting work. We drink lots of water before begining work to stay hydrated as there are no breaks. We have to wear the PPE kit comprising head gear, gloves and shoe cover in the donning area, ensuring no part of the body is exposed before entering the COVID-19 unit. Once the duty is over, we remove the kit in the doffing area and immediately wash our hands with sanitiser, post which we take a shower along with a hair wash. After the bath, we wear a scrub and leave the area. Once we exit the COVID-19 unit, we cannot enter the ward again

After weaing the PPE kits for six-hours we feel exhausted, says nurse Dhanashree Parab 

Tell us about the PPE kits, are you comfortable wearing it?

The PPE kits are made up of a material which is like plastic and covers our entire body, which is why we feel a bit uncomfortable after wearing it. After donning a PPE suit, we cannot drink water or visit the restroom. Therefore, the hospital management has made a duty pattern of 6 hours for COVID-19 nurses. Earlier, we did eight-hour shifts but since the outbreak of the pandemic, the duty hours have been changed to six hours as we have to wear PPE kits.

It takes us 10 to 15 minutes to wear a PPE suit, earlier we used to take more time because it was new to us. The PPE kit comprises head cap, shoe cover, goggles, face mask, hand gloves and the body gown. We have to throw away the suit after every use.

Can you give us a ground reality of COVID-19 situation in Mumbai?

With the number of COVID-19 cases rising in Mumbai, it is getting difficult for patients to get bed in hospitals. The government must make some kind of arrangements to deal with this. The make-shift centres lack facilities to deal with serious patients. A proper hospital setup with oxygen support is required at these facilities so that we can save more lives.

How has your family supported you while you are leading the fight against COVID-19?

Honestly speaking, I am able to do all of this because of my family's support or else I wouldn't be able to do it. My husband, who is diabetic and comes under the high risk group has never stopped me from going to work. In fact during the lockdown, when I was doing double duty due to shortage of staff, my husband even came to pick me up. I also received a lot of support from my daughters who have taken over responsibilities at home while I am in the hospital.

When asked why COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the city, Parab says that people in Mumbai lack discipline. "Wearing face mask, washing hands and maintaining social distance must be followed to the T!" Dhanashree signs off.

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