India: Caring for COVID-19 Patients

By Sr. Manjusha Pulickakunnel ASC

I am delighted to share the joy of caring for the COVID-19 infected patients during my COVID voluntary care service. I had the privilege of working in two hospitals and a COVID care center as a nurse and a COVID care volunteer. The Archdiocese of Bangalore organized this program under the leadership of two great humanitarians, Fr. Anil D’Souza, SDB youth director for the Archdiocese of Bangalore, Karnataka, in India, and Br. Madhu, a Camillian Brother.  Under their meticulous planning and guidance, around 40 of us, including religious fathers, brothers, sisters, and lay volunteers, were sent to the hospitals like St. John’s Medical College, St. Philomena’s, St. Martha’s, and Jeevan Jyothi COVID Care Center to take care of the COVID-19 infected patients. We were divided into four groups, each consisting of 4 to 6 members and serving in three shifts.

Along with me, there were Sr. Fathima ASC, Sr. Jancy Rani ASC, and Sr. Jassica D’Soza ASC. I could boldly say that we were privileged to have this opportunity to respond to the cries of the poor.

We were asked to take care of the hygienic needs of the patients. Taking them to the washroom, changing their clothes and diapers, supplying them food, preparing and giving them some hot water, feeding those unable to eat by themselves, checking their vital signs, and giving them medications.  We also taught them some breathing exercises, assisted them to lie in a prone position to improve their oxygen levels, and encouraged them to eat nutritious food.

We were also trying to cheer them up and give counseling. Many of the patients were living in terrible fear and anxiety because they were observing one another. Some were gasping for breath, gasping for life, and some were dying. Most of them had lost all their hope. Some of the patients had lost their loved ones with COVID-19; some had not seen their loved ones for more than a month; some had lost their jobs, and few of them were worried about the enormous hospital bills that they had to pay as they got out of the hospital.  These things were bothering them. In this painful reality, we went to each patient and listened to their stories, consoling them. We could motivate them to have positive energy through our loving words and therapeutic touch.

Shifting a dead body from ITU to the mortuary was a great frightening and heartbreaking experience for me. I could not control my emotions when I saw the dead young man’s wife and children crying outside the ITU as I was shifting their beloved dad’s dead body. They were begging me to show their beloved dad for the last time, the body was all covered with a white sheet, and only a tiny portion of the face was visible to them. They wanted to touch him, kiss him, and bid goodbye to him but it was all restricted. I couldn’t sleep well that night, but the next day I prayed to the Lord to make me strong, and I realized this is the same struggle every health care personal is going through every day. Moreover, it is not at all easy to be in a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for hours together without food and water and not being able to go to the washroom until we finish our patient care, remove our PPE, and scrub.

Many of the patients expressed their gratitude to us as they healed and were discharged. This experience was a tremendously satisfying moment for each of us as we risked ourselves to bring a little ray of hope to their lives.

I prayed to the Precious Blood of Jesus to strengthen me and fill me with His grace to experience His healing touch on all those infected and affected by the Corona Pandemic. I also witnessed the goodwill of many people who came forward as volunteers, leaving their comfortable lives to help those suffering from COVID-19. I thank God for the opportunity to serve so many people, more than feeling happy for the service I rendered.

I think that I have learned many lessons in my life. (1) Life is short and not under my control, so live it to the full with joy and spread joy, peace, and happiness. (2) A good, small gesture of kindness can bring a significant change to someone’s life. (3) More than the medications, there is a lot of healing taking place through our good words, therapeutic touch, and kindness shown. (4) It is good to be blessed, but it is better to be a blessing. (5) We are not put on this earth for ourselves but are placed here for each other.

Let us never grow tired of doing what is good.  Our foundress St. Maria De Mattias, often said we might not be able to save all souls in this world, but it is great to save at least one. All the services we do maybe like a drop of water in a big ocean, but still, I feel happy I could contribute at least a tiny drop of water in making that big ocean.