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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 78-79

Plucking up “C”ourage


Date of Submission08-Apr-2020
Date of Decision08-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance10-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication25-Apr-2020

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CRST.CRST_141_20

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How to cite this article:
Padhee S. Plucking up “C”ourage. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3, Suppl S1:78-9

How to cite this URL:
Padhee S. Plucking up “C”ourage. Cancer Res Stat Treat [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Sep 28];3, Suppl S1:78-9. Available from: https://www.crstonline.com/text.asp?2020/3/5/78/283305

I live in Maharashtra which is among the worst affected states in India with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); it has the highest number of reported cases to date.

I used to frequently travel from Pune to the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai with my father for his cancer treatment. However, in the 1st week of March 2020 when panic struck Pune, I got him transferred to the Sassoon Hospital, Pune, for chemotherapy.

My father is an ordinary gentleman with an ordinary job, caught in this extraordinary situation. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 stomach cancer and is receiving chemotherapy. It is known that patients with cancer who receive chemotherapy have a weakened immune system. This increases their chances of contracting various infections.

Caring for my father has become even more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as he is at an increased risk of getting infected with the coronavirus. I work as a senior software engineer with a renowned IT company, and as part of work, I come in contact with a number of people on a daily basis. Therefore, as a caregiver, I had to be very careful as I could be a carrier of the virus. I took all the necessary precautions to protect myself, such as using an alcohol-based sanitizer, washing my hands properly when I got back home from outside, and using a face mask whenever necessary. However, being a caregiver to a patient with cancer, one has to take additional precautions, such as using disinfectants frequently on things we regularly touch and wiping clean the items we bring home from outside such as fruits, vegetables, and even our purses and cell phones.

On account of my father's ongoing treatment, we used to go out to the nearby clinics to get the prescribed injection. To worsen the situation, all the nearby clinics were closed as a result of the lockdown; we now had to visit the hospital to get the injection. Although it is recommended to use a face mask while going out, my father would feel breathless on wearing a mask. People were going crazy buying up all the available N95 masks to keep themselves safe but buying it for my father seemed pointless. Moreover, because of the sudden panic, even the normal clinical masks were not available during the initial days. Therefore, we switched to a normal handkerchief, which my father felt quite comfortable with. While visiting the hospital, we had to ensure that he is least exposed to sick people and large crowds.

As a caregiver to a cancer patient, it is necessary to watch out for each and every symptom they show. In my father's case, some of the symptoms were similar to those of COVID-19, such as fever, cold, and sore throat.

At times, the crisis plays tricks with the patient's psyche. I remember, a few days back my father told me, “Looks like I am going to get affected with diseases starting with the letter C. Earlier it was cardiac arrest, then cataract, and now cancer, may be…” That is when I realized that to deal with the patient's anxiety, we first have to make them feel mentally stable in this stressful time. Moreover, we had this conversation when I was searching for “Curos-caps*”. Yes, “C” again!

My father has a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line to get the chemotherapy. The PICC dressing needs to be changed every 7–8 days to prevent any kind of infection in the central line. There is a specific procedure to clean it, which the nurses from the Tata Memorial Hospital taught us when we opted for the central line. At the end, you need a small “Curos-cap” to keep the clave connector disinfectant. It works as a disinfectant cap, and I was running out of stock for this. I tried looking for it in Tata Memorial Hospital and the nearby usually well-stocked pharmacies in mid-March, just before the lockdown, but it was out of stock there too. I thought it is just a small cap, and we could easily get it in Pune. I searched in more than 50 pharmacies and 2–3 multispecialty hospitals to get that cap but could not get it anywhere. I got the same response at all the stores –“Madam, lockdown ke wajah se saamaan nahi aaya” – because of the lockdown, we have run out of stock. I realized then that the unavailability of even the smallest of medical resources matters.

We usually visit our doctor with various blood and laboratory reports before proceeding with the scheduled chemotherapy, and certain tests were advised to be done before his next session. However, because of the COVID-19 situation, it was yet another drill to search for diagnostic centers and confirm their timings, as several of them were now operational for only a few hours during the day. I even sought options for sample collection from home, but none were available. We somehow managed to get the tests done, and it was time for our doctor's visit, but because of the unavailability of any means of travel, we could not meet the doctor. We were lucky that our doctor was generous enough to share his phone number with us, so that we could contact him in case of an emergency. I shared my father's reports with our doctor, and we were good to go with the last session of chemotherapy. Yes, it was my father's last chemotherapy session before surgery.

Here begins the actual trouble.

To travel from my place to the hospital, I needed a mode of transport. I recalled an article that mentioned about emergency sanitized auto-rickshaw services that had started in Pune. This was a ray of hope in a situation where one could not simply book an Ola/Uber. I tried calling them, messaged them on WhatsApp (yes, they operate via WhatsApp), I stated my reason for travel and explained my situation. After 2 hours of waiting came a reply, “Sorry, we don't have the permission to operate in areas under the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC).” And of course, I live in an area which comes under the PCMC. I could not understand the point of having sanitized emergency auto-rickshaw service if they came with operating area restrictions.

Earlier, it was hassle free to book an Ola/Uber taxi, but now, it appears as if people were literally taking advantage of the current lockdown situation to earn money. I contacted a few cab drivers who quoted 7 times the actual fare for only getting to the hospital which is less than 14 km from my place, stating the risk they were taking with their lives to drop us to the hospital.

I contacted a private ambulance service, but again, the fare was not at all reasonable. I just required a vehicle to accommodate three people. Finally, I was able to get hold of an auto to reach the hospital. It was just another local auto-rickshaw driver who agreed to drop us at the hospital and charged us three times the actual price.

My father was finally done with his last session of chemotherapy. The next step in his treatment will be an operation.

And now comes the mystery. How is the Tata Memorial Hospital operating in this COVID-19 situation? Are the doctors delaying the surgeries or are they happening as usual?

I am looking forward to and hope for the smooth functioning of the Tata Memorial Hospital after this 21-day lockdown.

About the patient: The writer's father is 61 years old. He has worked as a branch manager for Utkalika, the Odisha Government's handloom, craft, and art showroom. Later, he went on to open his own handloom store. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling to sacred and historical places and really enjoys getting involved in things related to arts and crafts, particularly those involving carpentry skills.

About the author: Ms. Sushrita Padhee is 25 years old. She is a software engineer with 5 years of experience in the banking and finance domain. She started her career as an IT professional in Wipro. Having done her graduation in Information Science and Telecommunications from Gangadhar Meher University, Sambalpur, Sushrita went on to pursue her masters in information technology from the Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore. Beyond office, in her leisure time, Sushrita is passionate about reading books and planning for the next adventure with family and friends.

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There are no conflicts of interest.


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