Heroes in the time of pandemic
Let us talk about the heroes of the pandemic. We want to remember those extraordinary men and women who have offered selfless services throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, knowing very well that they could get infected by the deadly virus. Undaunted, they went to the front line and offered help to those suffering. They launched a war against an enemy, which was an invisible entity that could kill within hours. Interestingly, wars are fought to kill, but this war was fought to save lives.
Let us pause for a while and contemplate. These heroes were detached from their families, worked day and night against numerous odds, survived on morsels, slept for a few hours in crowded motels, and shared a room with colleagues. And yet, they set on the most noble of all missions: saving human lives. They were the present day Florence Nightingale. The entire world saw how these heroes ran with stretchers to the emergency wards with patients gasping for breath. They saw death by the dozens every hour.
Bangladesh also had its share of heroes during the pandemic. From the onset of Covid-19 in the early 2020, our healthcare heroes faced adverse situations like lack of knowledge about the virus, lack of essential information, clear directives from the health authorities, shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), oxygen, medicine, ICU beds, etc; yet, they ran from one floor to another in hospitals in search of essential supplies. They attended severely infected patients, and in the process got infected themselves.
We wanted to mention the names of the Bangladeshi heroes, but it is not possible to collect all the names of those who were in the frontline. A good number of doctors fought on the front line, setting examples of personal sacrifices by treating severely infected patients with minimal support. They, in fact, went beyond the Hippocratic Oath to save lives, despite shortage of essential equipment, healthcare facilities and unpreparedness of the health officials to deal with the crisis. These frontline doctors have helped many patients get cured and go home. But, at the same time, we sadly remember many of those medical heroes who could not make it to their own homes: many doctors, nurses and healthcare attendants lost their lives from contracting the coronavirus while on duty.
Besides the healthcare providers, heroes emerged from the general population, too. They formed small groups, raised money, bought essential ration items like rice, lentils, cooking oil and vegetables, and carried them to the doorsteps of the poor people who were under home quarantine. These brave young people cooked food and offered them to the workers walking towards their villages. Many of them bought oxygen cylinders and went to help patients waiting outside hospitals. Others offered free masks and water bottles to rickshaw pullers and day labourers. These are our heroes.
Alongside various individuals, many social clubs and voluntary organisations, corporate houses and banks also offered supplies and cooked food to the poor during the pandemic. We must not forget the services offered by the armed forces, the police and Rab during those gloomy days. It was indeed a unique example of human response to one of the deadliest crises in recent human history. We remember the heroes.
It has been said earlier that the healthcare providers worked against numerous odds in their fight to save lives. Some government studies say that the lack of knowledge about the nature of the virus, how it is transmitted, or the incubation period of Covid-19 came as obstacles every step of the way. Hospitals were not fully equipped to handle the emergency situations, especially the ventilator support system to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome. With the new variants spreading fast, we hope the hospital logistics will be in place and the frontline fighters will be supplied with the required PPE.
Shahnoor Wahid is a senior journalist.