During this pandemic, many Covid-19 warriors are risking their lives to ensure that everyone stays safe as the country fights the deadly virus—Dr Brijal Patel is one of them. Patel, who is an expectant mother and a medical officer at an Urban Health Centre in Ahmedabad, has chosen to continue to serve patients amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
In January, Patel was assigned the duty to quarantine passengers arriving from domestic and international flights and shift them to hospital if they tested positive for the coronavirus. In mid-February, she discovered she was pregnant. “I was really happy but at the same time, a little stressed; I was already in middle of Covid-19 duty then. However, I didn’t have a second thought, I never intended to give up my responsibilities and sit at home out of fear.”
Patel, 27, didn’t want her baby to become the reason for not performing her duties. Family support plays a key role in times like these, she adds. “I live in a joint family and everyone is supportive of my decision to work in pregnancy. My husband says, ‘if you're helping others in this situation then with their blessings our baby will be safe and protected…’”Patel is in her fifth month of pregnancy, and says her husband and father make sure to check on her every 2-3 hours, reminding her to stay hydrated. “Without fail, both of them call me through the day, ask if I’m okay and remind me to not stress, be happy,” she adds.
Patel drives to work around 9 am, with a bag full of healthy snacks—fruit, lime juice, dry fruit—packed by her husband. “My lunch hours are not fixed. I try to come back home to eat, but on days that I have more work, I carry a tiffin.” Patel tries to be back home by 7 pm, so she gets time for herself. Before retiring to bed, she makes sure to read some stories and lullabies for the baby, to rid it of any negative impact.
Patel’s duties include field work, where she visits houses, cluster containment zones and shelter camps in her ward, to shift Covid-19 cases to the hospital. Her job also involves counselling patients who are clueless about what to do next. “My team is helpful, and they make sure I’m not overworked. It feels good when people say that I’m brave, that they wouldn’t have done this if they were in my place. This keeps me motivated,” she says.
Patel wears personal protective equipment (PPE) on duty and tries to limit interactions with patients to protect herself and the baby from the virus. “It does become tiring sometimes, as I have begun to gain weight and have become restless. Also, during field visits, it is difficult to access washrooms. Because of this, I have been getting urinary tract infections (UTI),” says Patel, who recently developed some symptoms of Covid-19, but tested negative twice.
According to Patel, she has an opportunity to be at the front and serve people who are in need. She plans to continue field duty for at least the next two months. “I want to tell my baby that he/she was part of this adventure, and we fought it together,” she smiles.