In the times of Corona: An Interview with Dr Asima Banu

"People should not panic but be cautious"-Asima’s words are definitely comforting to people who are scared.

Dr Asima Banu

People feel despair and disappointment at the state of affairs during the pandemic times. While some hospitals have refused to treat patients, others are not functioning at all. TV channels are broadcasting pictures and videos of Covid-19 patients in their mad rush to gain more TRP. They are attempting to sell insurance policies by creating unnecessary panic. Allegations of corruption also have unfolded against politicians. Amidst these, common people are stigmatizing patients diagnosed with Corona, and instances of social boycotts have also been reported.

However, not everything in our world is moving towards despair. Around us are people who reinstill humanity in our lives. In such difficult times too, we have nurses, doctors and paurakarmikas (sanitation workers) relentlessly working to help people. Dr Asima Banu is one of them.

Dr. Asima Banu was born and brought up in Chamrajpet of Bengaluru. She pursued her Graduation and Post Graduation in Bengaluru Medical College (popularly BMC). She is now teaching there and working as a Nodal Officer in the Trauma and Emergency Unit of Victoria Hospital. When asked about who inspired her to work with the Government Hospital, she says, ‘It’s not about any particular person, I was inspired by several people who taught me at the government medical college. Also, I could study medicine at a very low cost with the aid of the government. Hence, I wanted to serve in return and I’m grateful for all the people who taught me here.’

Asima as a medical officer speaks to patients with a lot of positivity like she spoke to us. Thus, she brings in hope and alleviates their fears in contrast with the perception that medical professionals are under a lot of stress during these times. “We always had many patients coming in. We were always under stress. However, the nature of the pressure has changed now. Doctors treating Covid patients cannot move out of the hospital and cannot take breaks in between by removing PPE kits. A set of new challenges have come by, but we are managing them competently.”

When asked how did doctors prepare to face these stressful situations and if she had any personal fears, she answered, ‘I have done my specialization in microbiology(MD).My expertise lies in preventing the spread of the virus and to treat the maladies of such viruses. However, it is the first time we are witnessing this pandemic. I’m practically seeing what we had read in our textbooks. This is definitely a challenge, we have pledged to serve the people and do not have any other choice. Even other doctors too who do not specialize in the subject would have studied microbiology as a subject. Hence, we all have basic level training to manage the situation.”

‘It’s not that we are not scared. Since this pandemic is spreading rapidly, We are cautious to not carry home the virus. Our family members too fear about us. Despite the scare, we don’t have a choice. Hence, we are extra cautious and have made continuous efforts to spread awareness about it since February. Wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, washing hands at regular intervals are basic lessons. We are tried to spread this awareness in public places like railway and bus stations partnering with NGOs’ she said.

Asima’s words definitely are comforting to people who are scared. People should not panic but be cautious.”Patients of all age groups, from a 4-day old baby to a 99-year-old grandmother have recovered at the Victoria hospital. It is imperative to be brave to fight the pandemic. Around 11 Covid positive women have delivered babies in the hospital and none of their babies contacted the virus” she added.

So far, more 1,900 people have been admitted to the hospital and most of them have recovered. Patients with comorbidities are more prone to fatalities. However, they too have recovered.  The doctor expressed regret about some patients who succumbed to the virus.  Speaking about the death amongst youth, she noted, “Usually, they suffer hypertension and/or diabetes and either did not notice the symptoms or neglected it. This creates serious problems.”

When we asked about the prejudices about government hospitals amongst people and how to dispel them, she said “Many people are not aware that this center is equipped with all advanced facilities and is known across the country for treatment available. We have maintained high standards for decades. Staff and special officers have been cooperative and many people appreciate it once they know about the facilities. Not just that, we have provided free treatment to all the Covid patients. The government is not charging anything.”

Speaking about the stigmatization of Covid-19 patients, “It’s a lungs-related disease and most patients get cured. In the past, AIDS was stigmatized and to a larger extent, we have overcome that. Patients usually do not know how they contacted the virus and many people who contacted the virus might not even be aware of it. Practically, anyone can be affected. Also, resistance might have been activated too by now. So, stigmatizing Covid patients is totally wrong.” Asima said

Dr. Asima said that, she has created WhatsApp groups with patients and is trying to instill hope. She is moved when recovered patients call her affectionately as mother or sister. Dr. Asima is known for ordering chips, chocolates etc on Swiggy at her own expense for the patients when they desired to have it. I wanted to call her again to enquire about this but decided against it as I didn’t want to take more time of her.

While there are so many hearts upholding humanity amongst us, isn’t it the task of media houses like ours to bring out many such stories?

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