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If there is one thing that the pandemic has made abundantly clear, it’s that doctors are the selfless heroes we’ve always needed but rarely appreciate. But on National Doctors’ Day 2021, we want to celebrate these healthcare warriors—especially in the light of the sacrifices they’ve made so that their patients could survive.
And what better way to venerate our doctor than to bring you stories of how they’ve been sailing through the pandemic, keeping their sanity intact—while doing their duty. That’s why on National Doctors’ Day, we’re presenting stories of three Indian doctors.
“As doctors, we are expected to be empathetic listeners, clear thinkers, skilled practitioners, conscientious individuals and altruistic healers, all at the same time,” says Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker—laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon, Saifee Hospital, Apollo Spectra, Namaha and Currae Hospitals, Mumbai.
“Though doctors are advised to practice some degree of detachment, in real life bearing the weight of another life can be a very heavy burden to
carry. As we grow older, our stresses tend to increase and it is extremely important that doctors must learn to destress themselves effectively,” she says.
“Art has always been an integral part of my life. Lines, form, figures and colours have always intrigued me since I was a child. I enjoyed sketching and painting throughout. During my teenage years, as an aspiring medical student, my focus shifted completely to academics. The art of healing took precedence over the art of painting and two decades passed by before I picked up the brush again,” says Dr Aparna, elucidating what helps her destress.
“Work is worship but painting gives me something else to look forward to. At the end of a hard day when I am on my way back, I feel excited about planning my evening in the company of canvas and colours,” she adds.
But what captures her imagination on the canvas? “Women and doctors” have been the central theme of my paintings for the last many years. In the last one and a half years, I have made an entire series of paintings with the theme of Covid 19,” she says.
“I believe that art is a medium of expression which speaks volumes without actually saying anything. The practice of medicine and surgery tends to take a toll on us doctors and I truly believe that one must cultivate hobbies that help to not only destress but also make life more beautiful,” she concludes.
For Dr Pavan Pai, consultant of neurology and neuro-interventions at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai, the Covid-19 pandemic not only played spoilsport for his plans on training abroad but also affected his homecoming after my two years of postdoctoral fellowship in neuro-interventions in Pune.
“As I shifted back home to Mumbai, Covid-19 cases were rising and pandemic was declared and the lockdown was inevitable. The next few months were full of uncertainties and added responsibility of protecting myself and others from the infection, especially my elderly parents and pregnant wife,” he explains.
“At work, being a frontline worker there was always a chance of getting infected—hence the first thing to learn was to wear a PPE. The world in PPE is something surreal. It feels like changing into a superhero costume. And getting into a covid-19 ward is akin to a war zone,” Dr Pavan adds.
But unlike other diseases, Covid-19 patients are bereft of family members to take care of. And so Dr Pawan feels he was the eyes which the relatives could see their patients. “When I called them to update the condition of their loved ones they felt relieved. It was also a challenging job in a way that there was no known treatment. The disease threw a bunch of
neurological complications which I had to treat apart from my usual neurology patients.”
“In one such instance, I performed an emergency mechanical thrombectomy procedure on a patient with acute stroke wearing a PPE and following all safety protocols. Still, when he turned out to be positive later, it shook me and I isolated myself for a week”.
Towards the end of 2020, Dr Pawan finally received some good news as he and his family welcomed a baby girl. “However, after just after crossing the finish line, I myself contracted a minor Covid-19 infection. The isolation period was difficult. I could empathise what others must be going through when they get infected,” he adds.
“Somewhere down the line I learnt that we need to accept this new normal and be vigilant—but not afraid,” Dr Pawan concludes.
For Dr. Debraj Shome, senior cosmetic surgeon and director of The Esthetic Clinics, the pandemic has given him the opportunity to get fit. “I have grown fitter during the pandemic as there was a lot of time available. I learned to use my body weight creatively in a manner that can give you great fitness, endurance, agility, strength, and flexibility,” he says.
“I try to work out three to four days a week for at least 20 minutes a day. When done right, you don’t need too much time to stay fit. Even if I skip my workout due to the hectic schedule, I make sure I climb stairs, walk or stretch as and when I get time. There shouldn’t be immobility,” he adds.
Dr Debraj also prioritises his mental health and diet. “I try to meditate for at least 10 minutes every day as this calms me down. I also make sure that my diet is well-balanced, and is inclusive of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. I am a strong believer and follower of intermittent fasting, and that keeps me fit too.”
And for cheat days when his cravings get the better for him, Dr Debraj makes up for the damage by eating clean the day after. “I make sure I stay hydrated to maintain the electrolyte balance and prevent dehydration,” he adds.
“I urge people to use their willpower properly in order to contribute to their mental and physical well-being especially during the pandemic. You can do activities of your choice at home. Try yoga, aerobics, Zumba, Pilates, or strength training. This is the right time to take charge of your health,” he concludes.