• Heema Solanki

Treatment on Wheels

As a final-year medical student, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work in a civil hospital in Ahmedabad during the second wave of the pandemic. I worked in 'Treatment on Wheels' and assisted in the treatment of patients with Mucormycosis (fungal infection). 'Treatment on Wheels' is the very first initiative in the nation in which treatment is given in ambulances to COVID patients.

I was engaged in COVID duty during the second wave of the pandemic. The conditions were very bad in Gujarat during that time due to the lack of availability of beds and oxygen cylinders. People's anxieties were running high. The government was really trying hard to do everything possible for the proper treatment of patients but it was insufficient. When there were oxygen cylinders, there were no flow meters. Although there were treatment options, there was a shortage of medication. Patients reached the hospital, but there was a lack of beds in the hospitals. During that time, the Junior Doctors Association of our college decided to start a program under which primary treatment would be given to patients in the ambulance. There used to be a 2 km long line of ambulances waiting outside the hospital for patient admission. We, the final year students of the college joined this as volunteers to provide assistance. We were trained by the Junior Doctors Association of B J medical college. Initially, I thought it would be tough but later I gained confidence and was able to help as many patients as possible. We were giving IV fluids, placing cannulas, checking oxygen saturation, helping in placing oxygen cylinders, talking with family members of patients, and helping in every way possible.

During my duty in the Treatment on Wheels program, I encountered many patients with whom there were no family members because of stigma. This was discouraging. There were times when I was the only one accompanying the patients in the ambulance. Once there were some people who came along with a very elderly COVID patient. When asked if they were related to the patient they said, "We live in their neighborhood and no one from his family was ready to come with the patient because he tested positive and the patient was in severe pain so we came along with him". This surprised everyone present in the ambulance. Such selflessness is exemplary. Their sentiments moved me and my faith in humanity was restored.

For me, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While there were lots of things we got to learn as final year students like communication with patients and relatives there was always the fear of getting infected. But, I enjoyed the time of my duty. It will always stay as a cherished working experience for me. I was very lucky to get this opportunity. As medical students, we wait for the time when we will become doctors. With this duty, I felt like a doctor before my time, which was an amazing learning opportunity. Hope things get better soon.

About the Author:

Heema Solanki is a final year medical student from BJ Medical College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Heema had volunteered for COVID-19 duty during the second wave of the pandemic in India. She has also previously volunteered in spreading awareness for preventing vector borne and food borne diseases in rural areas of Baroda.