Testing times for doctors’ families

When white coat angels go out to treat Covid-19 patients, they put their entire families at risk, writes Kulsum Mustafa

Varanasi-based renowned plastic surgeon, Dr Subodh Kumar Singh, is a global celebrity. He is the doctor who brought the smile back to the cleft deformed face of not just Pinki of the ‘Smile Pinki fame, which won the Oscars, but hundreds of such Pinkis lurking behind the veils of their mother. But this pandemic, especially the difficult lockdown period Dr Singh acquired a new status- that of a motivator and an inspiration.

Dr Singh along with a few others from his profession set up a think tank. This forum worked relentlessly, calling out to fellow doctors to come out, guard against infection, but continue their role as messiahs, saviours of human life. The work was not easy, members of the medical fraternity were coaxed into resuming work with requisite precautions. Dr Singh proved through example. He started training his own hospital staff and resumed surgeries of the patients, chiefly poor who had come to his hospital from far off places and were lodging in his hospital only.

This think tank had to build confidence at two levels — among the medical professionals and also in the common masses. Both had also to be trained on how not to avoid getting infected. Of course, the doctor accepts that it was very challenging but not impossible. Proving thereby that when the going gets tough the tough have to get going.

Not one to preach from the alter those whom he talked knew how difficult it was with him. Both his children are doctors and posted in two states outside Uttar Pradesh. His daughter Nimisha Singh is in Dehradun and son Ayush Kumar Singh in a Kerala.

“My daughter is second-year general surgery student posted in an emergency, which is the first contact place with critical patients. My son Ayush is an intern and posted in a fever clinic and takes samples from them for testing,” he said adding that he is proud they have chosen his profession but as a father, he is concerned, in fact, more concerned because he knows the risk they are facing daily

“Both my wife and I try to be in touch with them on phone and keep advising them on infection control training not to be lax with safety rules,” he said adding that his prayers are not for just his children but all the brave hearts warriors in white coats. Dr Singh has during the last few months used all forms of social media to disperse messages on safety gears usage.

”You cannot drop your guards even for a second. It is like being on a Highway, slightest of error will cost you, dear, “ said Dr Singh advising to religiously follow three things

Wear a mask, hand wash and maintaining social distancing, Dr Singh accepted that it is not so easy and described how they had to postpone surgeries at the last minute and go into intensive sanitization mode when a positive case was detected among staff or patient’s relatives.

“Do not forget to see the positive side of the Pandemic — whole range of new learning opportunities have come our way, we must accept them with an open arm” said Dr Singh.

Lucknow-based young doctor couple’s thoughts seem to be in total sync with their senior colleague. Dr Abid Asghar (community medicine) and his wife microbiologist Sara Abid are
posted in a COVID-19 hospital Era Medical College.

Their four-year-old son Mohammad Arshan who was earlier going to preschool and crèche and returning home with his parents suddenly found himself left alone with his grandpa, also a doctor but confined to bed due to major surgery. But seems the little one has adopted fast to the challenges posed by the COVID-19. He seems to have realized that he cannot either go out or be too demanding for his parents’ time.

“My day starts now at 5.30 am and ends way after midnight,’ says Dr Sara, who for the last few months has to do total household work as their full-time servant had to go home to attend to his parents. But the optimism in her voice is so freshening. “The pandemic has taught my son to be independent and responsible. He brushes his teeth, eats the laid out breakfast and packed lunch that I leave before going to the hospital

“He has been taught to follow rules. He knows he cannot rush to us when we return from the hospital but waits till we have bathed and changed into home clothes,” explained Dr Abid adding that the little one has also been taught to use his knuckles instead of fingers to open the doors and washes his hands frequently.

Things will change as the world will shape itself for the New Normal but stories of how the doctors had to carry a double load of work and family. One cannot forget that when those white coat angels went out to treat they put their entire families at risk.