2020 May 12
Amidst these trying times, healthcare professionals from all over the world have been knights in shining armour, working day and night to battle the coronavirus with their magical, healing hands. Even though we are aware of the levels of dedication, sheer strength and effort that healthcare professionals commit in order to control the transmission of the coronavirus, there’s still so many hardships and mental health agony that they face from behind the scenes, that are not made public.
We at Pulse spoke to some healthcare professionals about their experiences with battling the coronavirus pandemic, in order to catch a glimpse of the realities that they are living through during this period of time. And it completely shattered our hearts as we listened to what they had to say.
Shannon*, a Sri Lankan doctor who is currently working in Australia took us to the time when all of this began, in March, when the virus first started spreading rapidly, in countries all over the world. The virus started spreading like wildfire, when hospitals and healthcare professionals were not prepared and equipped to treat patients who had contracted the virus. She spoke to us about how healthcare staff members did not have adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the time, yet had to consult and examine patients, unaware of if they had contracted the virus or not.
She told us about how traumatic it was and how it was similar to going to battle with no armour or ammunition for protection. Yet, they had to go through with it, even though it meant risking their own lives and the lives of everyone around them. There are instances where some healthcare workers opt out of going home to see their families, especially if they have babies or elderly adults, to make sure that they won’t put their loved ones in danger.
Arun*, a Sri Lankan doctor working in a local hospital spoke to us about the deep phobia people have towards coronavirus and its negative repercussions towards healthcare professionals. He explained how people have created an unnatural fear towards the virus and unintentionally carry out actions that might put many people’s lives at risk. One such incident he pointed out, was how some patients who arrive at the hospital are not honest about the symptoms that they have identified, as they are either in denial of contracting the virus or they are ignorant towards the current situation. This is the cause for the temporary closedown of Ward No. 5 of the Kalubowila Teaching Hospital, where a 60-year-old man was tested positive for coronavirus, after being admitted to the Ward. In the midst of all the chaos, the Ward had to be temporarily closed down, doctors, nurses and minor hospital staff members as well as other patients had to be kept under quarantine.
Furthermore, he spoke to us about how some people are not as compassionate and hospitable towards healthcare workers, because of the irrational fear that makes them believe that the healthcare staff members are carriers of the virus themselves. He mentioned instances where some people in rural areas who live in neighbouring houses from healthcare professionals of that area, dislike it when healthcare workers come home after a long day of work, as they are worried that the virus will be transmitted to them.
We also spoke to Niyomi*, a Sri Lankan nurse who’s currently residing and working in UK, who actually contracted the Coronavirus. She spoke to us about how they’re treating the virus-like the normal flu and how she was only given 7 days to self-isolate and recover before she was asked to come back to work again. She mentioned to us about how she has a bad cough and how it has caused a strain, with chest pains and back pains due to the constant coughing. She said that since many people and hospital staff members are unwell due to the virus, hospitals are running with a limited number of staff members, hence might be the reason as to why she was called in for work after just 7 days.
It is safe to say that this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is a plethora of other hardships that healthcare professionals face, that are unknown to us. According to BBC, most healthcare professionals are undergoing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as they are constantly pushing themselves to save as many lives as they can and also handle the manic stress of having to treat multiple patients at the same time. In some situations, some hospitals don’t have adequate Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers, adding to the trauma of having to treat patients without protection for themselves. Most of them are also mentally, physically and emotionally worn out due to the fact that they have been undergoing intense pressure for a prolonged period of time. Moreover, they are also undergoing intense levels of anxiety when trying their best to keep their family members and loved ones safe during these difficult times.
Due to these extreme levels of stress, there have been some reports of healthcare professionals committing suicide in America and in some European countries. It has been reported that the urge to commit suicide arose because they have found it difficult to cope with intense pressure for a prolonged period of time. But the most heartbreaking reason as to why some nurses committed suicide, is because they have contracted the virus themselves and they don’t want to risk transmitting it to others around them, so they take their own lives instead.
Let us all come together in being more appreciative, hospitable and kinder towards the healthcare professionals who are working so hard to enrich the lives of others around them. Even though the curfew restrictions are now more relaxed in Sri Lanka, let us all strive to abide by the health and safety regulations imposed and let us all put in extra effort to take care of our own well-being. This is the only way that we can support the healthcare professionals and all the front-liners. I’m going to end this article with utmost gratitude and the biggest thank you to all the healthcare professionals and front-liners for constantly being protective of us. Sri Lanka salutes you.
*Names changed upon request to protect privacy