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“When we are young, we hear so many stories of soldiers sacrificing their lives for the countries and working at the forefront. So when a crisis like this came, I knew I had to be the one serving the patients,” begins Dr Divya Singh.
Only three months ago, Dr Singh, who has an MS in General Surgery from the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medicine and Research (JIPMER), had moved to Djibouti, Africa, along with her husband who is working with the Indian Foreign Services.
But on hearing the news about the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to return to India anticipating an increased need for doctors in our country.
“I returned to India by the first week of March when the number of positive cases was just about under 400. Within a week, I received a request for help from a WhatsApp volunteer group based in Mumbai. They required medical professionals to help with the pandemic surveillance in the Worli and Dharavi slum areas,” she recalls.
So for almost a month, Dr Singh went from door to door conducting surveys to identify individuals with influenza-like symptoms.
“We were a group of 10 doctors working in that area. The procedure was to ask them about their travel history if they had contact with any COVID-19 patients if they were showing symptoms, we would have to collect swabs that would be sent out for testing. This procedure is still being continued today with the increase in the number of positive cases each day,” she explains.
Besides this, she also organised a crowd fundraiser along with other doctors who are part of the Mumbai Surgical Society to raise funds to resolve the PPE kit shortage.
“By the end of March, the cases in India started soaring, and the BMC started setting up temporary fever clinics to avoid clusters at hospitals. The average positive cases that I saw daily went from 2 to 20 within just a few weeks. But throughout all of this, I could see that all the health workers around me were working proactively to fight the pandemic,” says Dr Singh, who, during this time, also decided to cut her hair and donate it to an NGO that creates wigs for cancer patients.
Although her parents were initially scared about her decision to step out and volunteer, they are incredibly proud of her mentality to serve society during this time.
“A lot of people have asked me what motivated me to make such a drastic decision to come back from Africa, at a time when it is one of the few countries with a lower COVID-19 count. My answer is quite simple: this was my duty. Although I have only been practising medicine for a year after completing my studies, I believe that once you’ve taken up the job to serve the society, there’s no turning back until it is fulfilled,” she concludes.
Setting aside personal interests and risking her life, Dr Divya Singh is one among the many health care workers working in the forefront to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We salute them all!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)