Kolkata: With India battling the ever bulging number of Covid-19 positive cases, panic and chaos amongst patients and their family members are constant. How bad is the level of infection, what does one do next, does it require hospitalization and, most importantly, how to face a hostile society, are some of the problems patients face.
A group of Covid survivors and family members of survivors have now turned into warriors with an aim to guide and counsel patients and their family about the dreaded virus.
The motley group, Covid Care Network (CCN), initially formed with seven members, including a model, a mountaineer, a musician and group of doctors, is expanding and transforming into a formidable force in its fight against the highly contagious virus.
And, ever since starting work from July 1, CCN members are facing new challenges on a daily basis as the number of cases rise.
Well known model Madhabilata Mitra, whose 74-year-old mother tested Covid-19 positive, and fortunately got cured after 22 days of hospital stay, has learned a lot about the virus during this difficult phase. “During my mother’s hospitalization, I interacted with a lot of patient parties, doctors, nurses and gained medical knowledge, which is now giving me the confidence to handle the situation better. Now that I’m working towards alleviating fears from the minds of people I’m coming across peculiar problems,” informed the model who is also a trained mountaineer.
Talking about CCN, Madhabilata says that while discussing about the problems she faced during her mother’s illness with mountaineer Satyarup Siddhanta, whose maternal uncle was also infected, they realized a need for dedicated people who can guide and counsel the patients and their families. They also discussed the matter with Dr Yogiraj Ray, an infectious disease specialist at ID hospital in Beliaghata, who too felt the need for such a force.
CCN is now bolstered with the addition of senior doctors like hepatologist Dr Abhijit Chowdhury, cardiologist Dr Arijit Ghosh, surgical oncologist Dr Diptendra Sarkar, Dr Parthasarathi Mukherjee of Liver Foundation, among others. The network also has violinist Pallab Banerjee as its core member.
Service to Society
The members realised that there is very little knowledge about the disease and what is required to be done if a patient needs home isolation/quarantine or hospitalization. “We all learned the hard way and so we decided to help people like us, who are facing the problem,” said Madhabilata.
The network gets regular updates from the state health department about new cases and the volunteers then call them up to counsel them. But CCN also wants people in distress to call them directly, for which they have started a 24×7 helpline number 18008891819.
“We recently had a case in Siliguri where a family with covid positive patients was barricaded by the local people and were not allowed to come out even after they had served the required quarantine period. Doctors from our team had to go there to make the local people understand and soothe frayed nerves,” cited Madhabilata.
Dr Jogiraj Ray has been associated with multiple such networks. One of them is Covid Survivors’ Club in Berhampur which caters to the economically backward section of society. “These survivors are allaying fears in people. I have come across corona positive patients who have been treated very badly by society. There are many taboos and ignorance surrounding coronavirus which needs to be broken. And this can happen only when more cured patients come forward to serve the society. I troubleshoot over the phone and guide network volunteers,” said Dr Ray. He believes that with more volunteers it will take the load off the doctors, who are overburdened with patients at the hospitals.
When asked about hospitals running short of beds for Covid patients Dr Ray said that most patients with even mild symptoms are getting themselves hospitalised out of fear of facing a hostile society. Such patients are draining out the government and human resources.
“For home care we need support. Doctors can guide about the basic process, and tell patients what they need to do. But during the 14-day quarantine you may have many queries. Also, if a patient develops complications, how and where can they find help, is still a gray area. This is where CCN comes in,” said the infectious disease specialist.
Another core member of the network, Satyarup Siddhanta has encountered peculiar problems which they did not envisage earlier. “We came across cases where doctors are not willing to write prescriptions for a Covid test. So our network’s medical practitioners are now writing these prescriptions. We see that asymptomatic patients, who prefer to stay under home isolation, are unable to do so due to societal pressure. Another problem is with patients who have been cured and have served their 14-day isolation. Since patients no longer require tests after 14 days there is a trust deficit amongst society. We are now giving them certificates announcing that they are cured.
To get more acceptance in the society CCN has also signed an MoU with the government for such counselling and help,” said Siddhanta.
After Monami Biswas became the first cured patient in the state to donate her plasma for clinical trials, Madhabilata too is planning to donate her plasma along with her mother’s. Another CCN member Dr Arijit Ghosh has also donated his plasma for clinical trials. The group members feel very strongly for the need to develop a healthy bank of plasma in the state. “I am also going to donate my plasma along with my mother. I feel that very few eligible people are coming forward to donate their plasma. This is crucial for critical care patients,” said the model.