This article has been published in partnership with Quaker India.
I n India, there is a common saying that doctors and healthcare workers are second only to gods on earth. This hyperbolic connection of divinity to the noble profession is made with good intentions — to celebrate their sacrifice and relentless efforts for our wellbeing.
In the last two years, while suffering the ravages of a global pandemic, we all were made to witness the grit and perseverance of these selfless healthcare workers, battling the coronavirus on the frontline. Every single day, they continue to put their lives on the line to save us.
Recognising the courage and inspiring spirit of the Indian healthcare community, The Better India has partnered with Quaker India to highlight the stories of these heroes for the campaign #SalutingOurHeroes. As part of this campaign, Quaker India, along with NGO partner Smile Foundation, will provide more than 1 lakh oatmeals (40 grams of rolled oats) to over 45 government and private hospitals, as well as medical institutions, in seven states, namely Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi-NCR, Chhattisgarh and Telangana. Some of the hospitals that will be engaged in this initiative are, KEM Hospital and Rukhmani Bai Government Hospital in Mumbai, Ernakulam General Hospital in Kerala and Columbia Asia Hospital in Gurugram.
Additionally, as a tribute to these Real Fit Heroes of India, the campaign is also launching a special film ahead of National Doctor’s Day on 1 July. Led by Michelin star chef and Quaker’s brand ambassador, Vikas Khanna, the film highlights heart-warming and inspiring stories about healthcare workers and their incredible efforts of tackling a pandemic while being a constant pillar of support for their patients.
“In these tough times, our healthcare heroes have continued to shine. I sincerely thank all healthcare professionals and salute them for their extraordinary service, unflagging compassion, and courage. They have braved all the odds and are truly our Real Life, Real Fit Heroes. Through this special initiative, Quaker and I, extend our collective admiration and appreciation for these healthcare heroes as they continue to fight this pandemic and keep us safe,” says Vikas Khanna.
Here are the six COVID heroes featured in the campaign:
Dr Jigmet Wangchuk
Spreading across the country, COVID-19 eventually reached a remote village in eastern Ladakh as well. Here, 42-year-old Dr Jigmet Wangchuk has been working tirelessly to keep the villagers safe. The region has poorly equipped hospitals and few medical professionals who are trained to handle the situation. Dr Jigmet, a medical officer who has dedicated over a decade to government service, has been travelling to the homes of the infected in Khera Pullu, Barma, Shashikul and Tangtse to check on them and to spread awareness about COVID-19. He has also set up an isolation facility at Yourgo and Phobrang with four oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters and PPE kits. Dr Jigmet trains his staff on how to conduct COVID-19 tests and volunteers to assist the armed forces along the LAC as well.
When a deaf and mute COVID-19 patient named Anand Rai came to the Bilaspur Railway Hospital, Chhattisgarh, Swati Bheemgaz, a nurse at the hospital, went out of her way to ensure he gets proper treatment. The nurses and doctors at the hospital struggled to communicate with the patient, leaving him equally confused and unable to fully comprehend what the doctors were saying. When Swati saw him struggling, she was distraught. She went home and spent the night learning sign language on YouTube so that she could understand the patient’s suffering better. Ever since, she has been helping other hospital staff communicate with the patient and spends whatever little time she has off from work learning sign language on her mobile.
While most of us stay home to protect ourselves against the pandemic, Manikandan, a resident of Ramanathapuram, Puducherry, has been risking his life everyday to ferry COVID-19 patients to the hospital. After losing his brother in a tragic road accident, he decided to start a free ambulance service. Fondly known as ‘Ambulance Mani’ among the locals, he works as a car salesman to fund the 24/7 free ambulance service and does not take any donations.
Since the start of the pandemic, the 35-year-old has not gone home for fear of infecting his family, and sleeps in his ambulance while depending on the local police for food. He has ferried more than 65 COVID-19 patients to nearby hospitals, including 24 pregnant women, who were due for their delivery. Mani has also been ferrying the bodies of COVID-19 victims to the burial grounds.
At Srinagar’s JLNM Hospital, Shugufta Ara has been helping deliver babies of COVID-19 positive mothers. Shugufta, who has been working for seven years now, has been posted on COVID-19 duty since the past year. She has taken care of more than a 100 COVID-19 positive pregnant women and their newborns. At times she didn’t even get the time to wear proper PPE kits and had to risk the chance of getting infected, in order to deliver the babies safely.
Despite her family being infected with COVID-19, Shugufta has not taken a single day off from work in months. As a mother of two young children herself, she takes out the time to comfort the worried mothers so that they can bring their children into the world without any stress.
Md Ashfaque Ahmad
Dressed in a PPE suit and equipped with his testing kit, Ashfaque Ahmad sets out everyday, no matter the heavy rains or the scorching heat, to collect samples for COVID-19 tests of people across Delhi. Sweating profusely under his PPE gear, which he wears for more than 12 hours, he collects samples throughout the day so he can cover as many people as possible. The 42-year-old is a medical laboratory technician with the chief district medical officer of Central Delhi district. Since the start of the pandemic he has been working seven days a week without any regard for his own safety, never taking a day off to celebrate festivals with his family and or even mourn the deaths of close relatives. Despite living with his young daughter and elderly parents, Ashfaque goes out into the field, sometimes to even the remotest corners of the city, putting himself and his family at great risk of infection.
Dr Victor Emmanuel
Dr Victor Emmanuel, a resident of Hyderabad, is a 60-year-old doctor who has been charging anyone with a white ration card or a food security card with a meagre fee of Rs10, while soldiers are treated free of cost. Throughout the pandemic, Dr Emmanuel has treated an average of over 100 patients per day. His team is also trying to distribute food among the needy.
Thanks to their indomitable spirit and unique sense of purpose, hundreds of people across India have been saved during these tough times. They are the real warriors India needs today to triumph over the COVID pandemic.