Meet Sandhya, the nurse who attended India’s first COVID-19 patient

Sharing her experience of working in the corona ward, Sandhya Jalesh, the nurse who was in the team that treated the first COVID-19 patient in the country says, “When I informed my family that I was assigned the duty to tend the COVID-19 patient, some of my friends and relatives advised me to turn it down. However, my husband and kids gave me their wholehearted support. That is how I took it up, with all my heart, one of the most important and unforgettable duties in my career as a nurse,” says Sandhya with pride. Another nurse was originally chosen for the duty in the corona virus ward. But, she was excused as she is a nursing mother and the responsibility came to Sandhya.

Experience form Nipah

Sandhya had worked at the triage that was set up during the Nipah outbreak two years ago. Triage is the process of sorting patients based on their need for immediate medical treatment and allotting them to separate emergency rooms. Sandhya says working in the triage was indeed a unique experience and made her stronger and confident as a medical professional.

Days of alert

“All of us were on high alert while treating the patients. We washed our hands using the disinfectant lotion before entering the COVID-19 ward for duty. Then we wore the masks. We changed clothes in the dressing room and wore the special gear for the working staff. Our clothes were kept in separate covers in the wash room. We would disinfect our hands again before donning the Personal Protective Equipment,” explains Sandhya.

After completing shifts, the PPE kit is removed and discarded in the bin. The staff washed their hands before wearing the next set of PPE. The mask has to be changed every hour. The staff took a shower before getting out of the ward.

Sandhya says that the clothes worn by her would be used again only after washing them well in disinfectant solution and drying them in the sunlight. Sandhya would take a shower again in hot water in the bathroom outside the house before going inside.

Fight for survival

Sandhya vows that all the hospital staff worked as a team to get everything under control. The hospital administration, the doctors and the nurses did their jobs with dedication and responsibility. Head nurses Siji Jose, Sheela Krishnan and Shiny Antony who were in charge of the infection control had coordinated everything. Sandhya says that the support and dedication shown by the hospital administration too had helped the team to a great extent.

The patient

Sandhya is impressed by the first COVID-19 patient, a medical student who returned from China as she had displayed incredible courage and resilience when tested positive for the novel coronavirus. She says the patient had cooperated with the hospital authority and the nurses. “It was she who taught us to be on alert and not to be scared,” says Sandhya.

The nurses entered the isolation ward only when it was required. There was a calling bell outside the isolation ward. The patient opened the door when the nurses pressed the calling bell.

Sandhya says phone and wi-fi facilities were arranged for the patient in the isolation ward. The patient’s mother too was under observation in the adjacent ward. So, she wasn’t stressed or scared. The hospital authorities had arranged clothes for them and provided food as well. Sandhya says the medical staff ensured that the patient wasn’t mentally stressed.

Family’s support

Sandhya credits her husband MP Jalesh and her children Lakshmi and Amarnath for their amazing support. The family stays at Kalamassery. Every day, Sandhya travelled around four hours in bus and train to report for duty at the hospital. She says her family’s support had given her the strength to perform her duty with utmost responsibility.

“Everyone would die one day. It would be the best thing to make use of an opportunity to do something that benefits the society. Wouldn’t I take care of my own kids if they are infected? That is exactly how I treat and care for my patients” smiles Sandhya.

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