“We can feel fear just like everyone else” — A doctor’s brutually honest take on the Covid-19 effect

Dr Kanchan Kaur, the director of Breast Surgery at Medanta Hospital in Gurugram has been treating cancer patients for the last 17 years. She’s a part of the force of doctors challenged with treating chronic diseases like cancer in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s her take on fighting the good fight: 

As doctors, we have never been scared of disease, it’s our job to fight it. Doctors have an internal mechanism that overrides the fear of infection as we go beyond our call of duty to carry a patient through choppy waters. But Covid-19 has turned things around; it has brought home the point that doctors can feel fear like everyone else. The fear starts as I begin my day, and see the eerily empty hospital. Whatever sign of humanity is there, is hidden behind masks and caps. The mother, the daughter, the wife in me is scared of bringing the disease to my family. But as I don my protective gear, the calling of who I am as a doctor, a healer, takes over.”

Dr Kanchan Kaur at work

On her fears as a doctor:
“Professionals working in essential services are faced with unique challenges. Disease doesn’t see a day, date, time, or occasion. For people like me who deal with conditions like cancer, there are bigger moral dilemmas to face. We have to weigh the risk of the actual threat of cancer versus the potential threat of Covid-19 and this may include delaying treatment for some vulnerable patients. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have crept into my operating room as well. Under normal circumstances, I like to hold my patient’s hand and reassure her as she falls asleep under anesthesia. But because of the current guidelines of social distancing, it is recommended that we stay out of the OR while the anesthetist puts the patient to sleep. For doctors, because touch is as important for healing as the actual treatment, this is truly heartbreaking.”

Waiting rooms at the hospital

On how she feels about the Covid-19 pandemic when’s she’s at home:

“When I go back home, I’m scared. As my children run to hug me, they grind to a halt when they remember that they have to wait after I’ve cleaned myself. Even then, I feel the emotional turmoil can’t be washed off. Every evening there’s news of my colleagues facing unimaginable challenges, and some even succumbing to the disease.”

On what she’s looking forward to after the Covid-19 pandemic:

“As a doctor, I firmly believe in the healing power of a warm hug, and I have told my patients who visit me right now that they shall get their hugs with capitalised interest after norms of social distancing don’t hold strong. On the personal front, I cant wait to have impromptu outings with family and friends.”

Photographs: Courtesy, Dr Kanchan Kaur

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