The pain of being in a Covid ICU
These days, everybody wants to be a doctor’s best friend.
So say hello to Muhammed Huzaifa, 24, a junior resident doctor in surgery at Delhi’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). A Bangalore native, at the time of writing this piece he is on duty in the Covid ICU, where he, along with a team of fellow doctors, cares for some of the most critical cases of Covid patients.
Dr Huzaifa doesn’t have a fixed routine, for his 6-hour-long shift rotates daily. Today is his weekly off and he is chatting from the quietude of his room—the hostel is inside the AIIMS campus. “Pigeons are the only birds that visit my balcony... they sit upon my AC,” he says on WhatsApp video.
Dr Huzaifa agrees to give a first person account of what it is like for a medical professional working in the heart of this deadly pandemic.
“It was another day of Ramadan fast. I offered my afternoon namaz at my room in Kashyap Hostel in AIIMS, made supplication to God to relieve people’s suffering, and headed to my duty at the Covid ICU in the AIIMS Trauma Centre. The place was in chaos. A colleague was standing near an intubated patient (on ventilator), looking at the monitor. ‘Three patients got intubated,’ he said. I took a deep breath, nodded my head in agony, and followed my team leader, the senior resident doctor, who was taking over from the previous team regarding the progress of each patient.
As I moved from bed to bed with a heavy heart, I noticed a patient on nasal prong. He was on HFNC (high flow nasal cannula) in my previous shift, but now looked comfortable and was busy over a spirometer, a lung expanding exercise. “This patient can be shifted out”—hearing these words from the team leader gave us all a sense of relief. It was an appreciation for all the hard work we resident doctors do despite being physically fatigued, mentally drained and emotionally exhausted.
As things in the ICU settled down and clock ticked 6.30pm, I thought of doffing my PPE (personal protective equipment) to break my fast. Just then we got an emergency—to drain air from a patient’s lung. I forgot all about my fast-induced hunger. The next time I looked at the time, it was 8.15pm. My team leader let me go. I finally doffed my PPE, took a sip of water and thanked God for each breath.
After I returned to my hostel room and checked my phone, there were numerous messages and calls from friends and relatives with requests for ICU beds, oxygen, and medications. Conveying my helplessness to them only made me hopeless. Just another day in the life of a junior doc like me.”