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The question that torments me to this day is simply this- if in a few weeks we could create sufficient capacity of oxygen, why then had we not done so when we had almost a year to prepare?
We think we have put those days behind us, but we have only pushed it to the far recesses of our mind.
A friend stumbled upon an old WhatsApp conversation about getting an oxygen cylinder filled during the second wave of Covid, and posted a screenshot saying #NeverForget. But how can we ever forget; just seeing her post opened up a tsunami of memories. Those days were back.
Those days when the last thing you heard before dropping asleep through sheer exhaustion was the sound of ambulance sirens. And the first thing you heard when you woke up a few hours later was the sound of ambulance sirens.
Every ambulance reminded you that there was a pandemic raging; every ambulance was also one patient who had been able to access scarce medical facilities.
Those days when you were simultaneously on three different devices trying to do six different things.
Those days when you kept hopping from one crisis to the other.
Those days when hours blended into each other- there were no boundaries- you were continuously on high alert.
Those days when there was no ‘work time’ and ‘non-work time’; all time was emergency time.
Those days when you were simultaneously striving to create partnerships which would make the Covid response more strategic, and were keeping track of which supplier of oxygen was trustworthy and which was not.
Those days when you ate lunch at 5 pm (if you remembered) and the only thing that kept you going was coffee, bad poetry and the inability to stop.
Those days when after spending hours trying to get a bed for a patient, I dropped off to sleep with just one desperate plea, “please, let the first message I see tomorrow morning not be one asking for oxygen, an ICU bed or Remdesivir”. I got my wish- the first message was asking a friend asking if I knew someone who could arrange the funeral of a person who didn’t have anyone in the city to cremate his body. That was the day I broke down!
Those days when so much time and effort was going in procuring plasma donors for critically ill patients. All you reading of medical literature told you that there was absolutely no evidence that plasma therapy worked. Why then were doctors still prescribing it – didn’t they keep abreast with medical news, or were they just too scared to take the risk of not prescribing it knowing they would be blamed if the patient didn’t recover?
The real tragedy of the second wave, however, was in our lack of response.
The second wave hit my state about 3 weeks after it ravaged the rest of the country. In the early days, when the numbers had gradually started rising, the organization I was with had been promised 100 oxygen concentrators. For about a week, I was constantly bombarded with calls from fairly important persons asking that the hospitals they were managing be given a greater number of concentrators than allocated. The oxygen concentrators were held up in customs, and by the time they arrived, none of the government hospitals wanted them. The hospitals had managed to augment the capacity of their oxygen plants, and they had sufficient oxygen to meet their needs.
The question that torments me to this day is simply this- if in a few weeks we could create sufficient capacity of oxygen, why then had we not done so when we had almost a year to prepare? Why did we have to wait for the second wave to hit us before we took it seriously?
Those days when you hesitated to ask your colleagues to use the special pass to deliver supplies to hospitals during lockdown. What if they contracted the dreaded virus? Could you live with knowing you were responsible for sending them out?
Those days when you heard of people close to you passing away due to lack of resources, but you took in the information with a detached distance. As if they happened to a stranger. The shock would settle only much later. And when it did, you would struggle to recover.
Those were the days when the deaths of strangers would hit harder than those of people you knew. The person who recovered from Covid, but contracted black fungus which claimed her. The person for whom you could procure Remdesivir from another state, but who died despite getting it.
People who, at great risk to themselves, continued to serve. People who took a break from the jobs that paid them to devote all their energy in trying to connect patients to services. People whose exams were cancelled, but who didn’t even notice it because they were so busy trying to fill the gap.
Those were days where you lost so much, but you regained the belief that human beings were good at their core.
Those were days we cannot forget. Those are days we must not forget.
Image source: YouTube
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Natasha works in the development sector, where most of her experience has been in Education and Livelihoods. She is passionate about working towards gender equity, sustainability and positive climate action. And avid reader and occasional read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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