The COVID-19 Deathbed
Dr Ripudaman Singh Bajwa
Government Medical College, Patiala
Dr Pradeep Kumar, an orthopaedic surgeon broke down on national television today while addressing everyone with teary eyes and folded hands. He had to bury his dear friend with bare hands after a series of events that denied Dr Simon Hercules, a senior neurosurgeon of a respectful burial. He lost the battle fighting against COVID-19 virus which the acclaimed surgeon acquired while treating patients.
The corpse was handed over to his family on the evening of 19th April 2020 at Chennai, India. Things took an unexpected turn from then on. His grave was dug halfway when a mob of 50-60 locals disrupted the proceedings. The local men attacked the ambulance ferrying the doctor, injuring his wife, a teenage son and friends who all assembled for their loved one’s final adieu. The mob pelted them with stones, thrashed the attendants with sticks and glass forcing everyone to run for their lives. Dr Simon was denied dignity in death.
The ambulance, now without a windshield was driven by two men while they bled continuously. After feeling faint and stopping for first aid, Dr Pradeep who courageously managed to safeguard the corpse wore a PPE kit and lowered the casket for his dear friend in another cemetery in the early hours of next morning. Dr Simon’s family couldn’t see him for the last time and that was the end for someone who dedicated all his life for saving others.
When a person joins medicine, he/she in a way agrees to sacrifice. Sacrifices that often go unnoticed by the stakeholders and the general public. While the surgeon had the option of restricting himself from work and being safe in this pandemic. He chose not to. He chose to work and save lives as his training and ethical values compelled him to be with all those who needed him in this catastrophe.
Various incidents in different parts of the subcontinent have surfaced recently. When stones are being hurled from rooftops at healthcare teams and doctors denied access to their residential apartments, it’s painful to even take the effort to explain and make others realize what contribution we as healthcare professionals have in this pandemic today and for the unforeseeable future. This incident is something that has broken spirits and shattered hearts of everyone fighting on the frontline. In the times when the value of life has been pulverised, are these the standards we set for human existence or for the younger buds waiting to bloom and prosper? Hardships, infrastructure, equipment shortages can all be dealt with but for a medical professional, the mob mentality poses stately disturbance. Today all we expect is just the realisation that rumours are the evil gifts that social media welcomes the vulnerable every day with. Be aware of what the truth is and have a humanistic approach for those working for a safer tomorrow. Healthcare is a pillar that supports the society and without it, the future is not sustainable.
Salute to all the brave warriors working tirelessly against this pandemic for a brighter tomorrow!