Covid-19 gives birth to modern-day heroes

Covid-19 gives birth to modern-day heroes

Covid-19 has brought the best and worst out of people in the past over one year

Manikandan (left) has been running a free ambulance service, while Swati learnt sign language to communicate with patients. Credit: Special arrangement

Covid-19 has brought the best and worst out of people in the past over one year -- some used the pandemic to rake in some moolah through black-marketing or selling fake vaccines, while several others took the opportunity to serve fellow beings.

Take the case of Swati Bheemgaz, a nurse from Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur who learnt sign language after being moved by the struggles of a speech and hearing impaired patient to communicate with her, or Manikandan from Puducherry who ferries patients on his ambulance for free.

Swati, who works at the Railway Hospital in Bilaspur, learnt sign language overnight through the internet after she found the struggles of one of her patients. "We were helping all patients but I was not able to communicate with this one person who could not speak or hear. I felt I should do something. After my shift, I started searching the internet for a tutorial on sign language," she recalls.

However, there was one twist -- half way into her tutorials on YouTube, she found that she was learning the American sign language and that would not help her in communicating with the patient. "Then I switched to the Indian sign language. I managed to learn it overnight. The next day I communicated in sign language with the patient, who was happy," she says.

For Manikandan, it was the tragic loss of life of his brother in an accident that prompted him to start a free ambulance service and continue his service during the pandemic. "No one came to my brother's rescue. Instead of calling for help or an ambulance, everyone just stood around and watched him die. I didn't want anyone else to go through what I went through," he says.

Since March 2016, Manikandan, who is a car salesman by day, has donned the cap of an ambulance driver by night, and does not charge anyone who calls him. Since the lockdown, he has been sleeping in the ambulance on most nights because he fears that his family, including his elderly mother, might contract the virus.

Swati and Manikandan were among six persons who were on Tuesday honoured as part of the 'Saluting Our Heroes' campaign by PepsiCo's Quaker and Smile Foundation ahead of National Doctors Day on July 1. As part of the campaign, Quaker has partnered with Smile Foundation to provide over one lakh oatmeals to more government and private hospitals across seven states including in Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Others who were honoured included Dr Jigmet Wangchuk, who set up a Covid-19 facility in a remote village Chushul in eastern Ladakh, which is just 4 km away from the Line of Actual Control, by transforming a dilapidated public health centre.

Shugufta Ara, a nurse at Srinagar's JLNM Hospital, was chosen for the honour as she has been helping deliver babies of Covid-19 positive mothers. On duty since the pandemic started, she has not taken leave for a day despite her family getting infected by Covid-19.

A Delhi-based laboratory technician with the chief district medical officer of Central Delhi, Ashfaque Ahmad works seven days a week collecting around 200 samples a day from people at their homes. He says he takes less than 40 seconds to collect a sample so he can cover as many people as possible.

Dr Anurag Sobhari was also honoured for saving people from the risks of a hospital visit with a doorstep OPD for the underprivileged.

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