My Story: 'We Were Supposed To Fight Pandemic Not Succumb To It, Govt's Failure Led People To Gasping For Breath'
Jyotsna Bhardwaj, a journalist, has been spending her waking hours, every day, trying to coordinate with the people across the country on social media, verifying the leads and arranging for crucial medical supplies for the deprived amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even before dawn, on one of the days in mid-March, my phone rang, not once or twice, but more than 20 times before my mother's phone started ringing, and I knew it was not a call I had the guts to attend. I felt helpless after watching a close one lose their father to COVID-19.
With every SOS call or a request to amplify messages for critical medical services, I feel extremely helpless for not being able to make it to everyone who is in dire need.
It feels like a personal loss when people lose their loved ones. We have arrived at a point where we are trying our best to save one another. It is a battle for survival. It wasn't a premeditated decision to reach out to people. I almost instinctively wanted to contribute to the best of my abilities.
It started with sharing one helpline number for ambulance service, and in no time, my feed was filled with inquiries about bed availability, oxygen cylinders, refilling, oximeters, and medicines. The situation turned grim in no time. There barely was a moment to catch a breath; things changed swiftly.
From scouting for beds and oxygen, I didn't even realize when it remorsefully transformed into a gruelling search for a spot in crematoriums. I honestly don't know, and I don't remember too!
Initially, resources were available, we had leads to share, and we knew where to find relevant sources, but now it's not. Resources are exhausting, and people who are rigorously searching are proliferating at an uncontrolled pace. Anyone trying to find a lead will often end up taking hours to find one, and in the worst-case scenario, which is now more often than before, it goes from hours to days. And this situation pertains to metropolitan cities alone.
It is far more devastating in the smaller regions, the rural areas. Such places have fewer to zero facilities in terms of ventilators, ICU, or oxygen-supported beds, and as a result, folks there are compelled to travel miles to get these resources, in most of their cases, they either cannot afford to travel or are restricted by lockdown protocols.
'She got the bed after hours of arduous search, at around 3 AM, but she couldn't make it to the hospital.'
It might come across as a sentence with cursory information stacked in it, but it felt like a personal failure. It felt like we had failed the entire family with that one person losing her life to COVID in the absence of necessary medical services.
It's never going to penetrate into our system. It is not just me but most of us out there, getting these texts or calls, informing about such a sorry state of affairs, which is absolutely unfathomable. We have collectively failed as a nation to save our people and seized their right to live and procure basic health facilities.
As gut-wrenching as it gets, each day, after witnessing the situation closely, we move on with checking on other families — the ones who are in need. I don't think any of us get enough time to process our feelings or even acknowledge them, perhaps because it is nothing when compared to the excruciating pain of the people whose loved ones are crying for help, smothering to death, lying in hospital corridors, and in alarming ambulances waiting for ivory towers to pay heed to them and pull them back to life, in spite of possessing complete right to demand as opposed to begging.
My nights are sleepless, often pervaded with one question as to whether we deserve to be in this vicious hold.
Aren't we supposed to be in our homes living with our loved ones, studying, working, playing, and so on…?
One of the most spine-chilling experiences I have had was when a two-year-old child was orphaned overnight. The child was supposed to have his parents around him, raising him, loving him, sending him to school. What did he do to deserve this?
Honestly, when I began, I did think about the reach of my work, considering I am not an influencer per se, but soon I realised that I just need to be a human to empathise with fellow beings – one who needs to feel the agony and misery of others, as my own.
Though the loss felt harrowing and left a void, but any news of recoveries filled my heart with a tad respite.
I wish the government had played its part equally, if not more, in saving lives. The government's incompetency and ignorance have impelled the population to gasp vehemently, even for a single ounce of breath.
In a country with a population of over 135 crores, our healthcare system should have been robust, well-connected, and well-maintained. We don't deserve to be in this predicament after all; the ones who are quite literally dying on the streets today were supposed to be treated to recover early, if not at the earliest.
We were supposed to be fighting the pandemic, not succumbing to it, but after witnessing all the somberness every night, I retreat with a bruised hope. But as much as it is for other entities to be held responsible for our grim state today, it is our fault too - we took the pandemic lightly - we stepped out without masks; avoided precautions; we ate nonchalantly on the streets; crammed the buses and trains and started attending weddings, and functions flouting the unwritten rules, completely unaware of the repercussions.
It's a collective loss, one that permeates into each of our lives, and we ought to stay with this loss for a very long time!
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