Four volunteers at a meeting with hospital doctor&
- Four bright microbiology students have volunteered to help the strained health care in Kolkata, breaking all stereotypes
- They collect swab samples of suspected COVID patients at a pvt hospital, a job otherwise someone else had to physically do
- All are staying with families and nothing untoward has happened so far. Hospital gave them training and assures complete safety
Kolkata: It’s a victory of inspirational courage over timidity. At a time when social stigma over coronavirus has made the nation witness the horror, unfortunately, of how COVID warriors including doctors being inflicted with pain, humiliation and at times ostracisation, four young microbiology students in Kolkata have volunteered to work at a private hospital where they come in contact with COVID-19 infected patients almost everyday.
They collect swab samples of suspected COVID-19 patients who come to Peerless hospital everyday, either with symptoms or as primary and secondary contacts with symptoms.
Soumya Sarathi Ganguly is just 22 years old. He cycles down to the hospital everyday, even on complete lockdown days. Currently pursuing MSC PhD from IIT Kharagpur, the bright student stays with his sexagenarian father at Garia in Kolkata, about 7 km away from the hospital.
“What if doctors tomorrow become selfish and stop treating COVID-19 patients, imagine what would happen. We can’t be selfish now. It’s time to come forward and serve in whichever manner possible. I am glad I could do this here. It’s basic safety measures that I adopt to keep myself safe and my father. He is not worried at all, instead encourages me to do what I am doing everyday,” said Soumya, who never expected any media attention or acknowledgement. He and three others have been quietly working at the hospital for the past two months as volunteers.
They have been given proper training at the hospital for 7 days as to how to collect the mouth and nasal swabs, hands-on with the kit they were further trained to do VTM. Viral Transport Medium or VTM allows the safe transfer of the virus for investigation. Everyday they encounter no less than 50 to 60 people at the hospital who are suspected to carry the virus in them.
By volunteering to do someone else’s job, their selfless service help release a few extra hands in an already overstretched human resources trying hard to grapple with the worst medical crisis in several decades.
“My father is my inspiration. He and my family stood by my decision rock solid,” said Suddha Chatterjee who takes an app cab everyday to come to the hospital in extreme South Kolkata. Her house is in Barahnagar, extreme North Kolkata, roughly 20 km away. This isn’t any paid internship and the 21-year-old woman doesn’t care much.
“If the hospital reimburses my cab fare then it’s like a remuneration against my service, it becomes a paid service then. I don’t want it to be a paid service rather my service to my society. Initially, I was scared but after a week it was like a normal routine. My family is fine, I am fine, never had any symptom. But I follow stringent sanitisation,” said Suddha.
Unfazed by the general narrative that often smacks of ignorance promoting disgraceful stereotypes, these young warriors wear a smile to disinfect the misnomers. “I take one hour everyday once I go back home. I put my clothes into a bucket of detergent water, wash them. I clean myself and also sanitize all my belongings in the bag. Then finally I go and mingle with my family members. They all wait for me to return and hear my everyday experience,” said Susmita Das, 22-years-old MSc student of Lady Brabourne College in Kolkata.
She belongs to a joint family of 12 members including senior citizens and none have been infected. “I want to motivate people to think above their personal fears. This is just a disease and it will go someday but humanity should survive,” she said with a smile on her face.
Her long time friend, Sampurna Ghosh hails from Panagarh in East Burdwan district. Sampurna, a student of prestigious St Xaviers College in Kolkata, was at her native place when she learnt about the opportunity to volunteer. Amidst lockdown, she made special arrangements to come back to Kolkata and join her friend along.
Now she stays at her usual rented arrangement, faces all the usual challenges of food and transportation but has not buckled down before the unusual times. She claims she will fight it till the end with her humble service. “Fear can’t rule me. The younger generation has to come forward. Let the weaker generation have their doubts, we can prove them wrong. I will keep doing this. A virus can’t alter humanity. It’s sad when we hear our doctors or other warriors are subject to public humiliation. This is our penance on their behalf,” said Sampurna in a calm yet determined voice.
The hospital has been regularly testing them to ensure their safety. But also hopes more such courageous people come forward and volunteer to render their service to the nation.
“We get motivated by seeing their courage. They are such young people. They told me if we don’t stand up now and help others then when! They are extraordinary citizens of the country who are brave to fight out the pandemic. They call it a small contribution but the nation will remain indebted to such young fighters,” said Dr Subhrojyoti Bhowmick, Clinical Director for Academics, Quality and Research Depts. Peerless Hospital.
With an indomitable spirit, the four young soldiers are walking on a path seldom chosen and hardly practised by others. They study, watch TV, stay with respective families, gossip over the phone with their friends, eat and sleep but have also made service to mankind their pledge to better being in this new normal life. While many might hail them to have taken a difficult path, with unparalleled intrepidity they have risen to the challenge to claim that they are on the right path.