Dr Rajeev Dingra
2020 has been attributed to as the year of Covid -19 pandemic. It has created a global crisis. As the history tells us thousands of health care workers have sacrificed their lives in the service of mankind through wars and epidemics.
In this Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the war against the corona pandemic has been fought well with tooth and nail with every stakeholder, whether it is administration or health care workers or others have contributed their best to overcome the pandemic. One name among the endless list of Corona front line warriors is of Dr Harleen Kaur, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology Government Medical College Jammu. It all started in the month of March-April 2020, when Dr Harleen was made nodal officer for corona testing at IIIM laboratory canal road Jammu; it was the tough responsibility to start RT -PCR testing for corona patients at III-M laboratory canal road Jammu.
The biggest task for her was that the IIIM laboratory was a research lab without any clinical exposure and the lab had to be registered with the Indian Council of Medical Research New Delhi for Corona testing, which was mandatory to start Corona RT -PCR test. Dr Harleen disclosed that to get registration from ICMR New Delhi, the lab was to be physically inspected by the team from ICMR. That was the dilemma, as country was in complete Lockdown and it was not possible to get the laboratory physically inspected! On other side the number of corona patients was on uncontrollable spike with testing facility getting overstrained at GMC Jammu. To bring an end to the ordeal, Dr Harleen took the impossible task of convincing the ICMR authorities to go for virtual inspection of the lab through digital mode and ultimately succeeded in convincing the authorities at ICMR New Delhi for virtual inspections and she along with DrInshad AliKhan,senior scientist at IIIM prepared multiple videos of the lab and the infrastructure in place including Biosafety level -3 facilities and ultimately succeeded in getting virtual inspection by the team of experts from ICMR New Delhi and her efforts resulted in getting the lab registered with ICMR thereby opening the way for increasing diagnostic capabilities for Covid -19 RT -PCR of Jammu Division.
“The constant pressure, the long working hours and endless number of nasal swab samples from suspected Covid patients received at a stage when our diagnostic systems were in the stage of infancy, put a lot of stress on all workers. As a matter of protocol we shifted to hotels away from our homes,” She told.After continuously working for months together and staying away from the family was very troublesome. “I learned that while leading a team in such pandemic, you must make sacrifices in life” said Dr Harleen. At home she had eighty five years old father in law to look after, Her son was to appear in NEET 2020 and her husband who is also a doctor heading an important department at GMC Jammu was already away from home in the hospital on covid duty.
“It was painful not to visit the dear ones for months together and at a stage when they were in most need of me. But to win the war against the pandemic there has to be full contribution to Covid -19 in terms of service, sufferings and sacrifice hence I left each and everything to GOD.”It was the team work headed by her that they succeeded in establishing RT -PCR for corona at the IIIM lab. Unfortunately she herself tested positive for the virus and had to struggle hard to come out of the complication the virus had caused.The work pressure and the ultimate desire to serve the own people caused heavy stress on her health and had to be shifted to hospital when she suffered an attack of accelerated hypertension in the Biosafety level -3 laboratory because of continuously working for more than four months in a PPE Kit.
While sharing her experiences of working in the PPE Kit, she said Life in a PPE kit is without food, without water and even without going to toilet for ten to twelve hours. Working in Biosafety level -3 laboratories is very exhaustive and at the end of the day you are fully drained out.She has been awarded by Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education Atul Dullo for successfully establishing a parallel diagnostic service in Jammu for RT -PCR and for her work. During her stay at IIIM,she established a good coordination team with the armed forces and provided uninterrupted services to them for which Commandant 166 Military hospital Brigadier Kanwaljit Singh honoured her for her services.Besides many social and political organizations, Rotary club, including,Kavinder Gupta,Ex Speaker Jammu and Kashmir assembly also honoured her efforts and her contribution in mitigating the suffering of people in this pandemic. She further said “I could not afford to give up. I knew it’s worth suffering as the work was very good and I decided to continue with my work and for my people. We must learn out of our own medical historyof courage, sacrifices and sufferings. India has a long way to go and emergence of such crisis is best to further strengthen the existing healthcare systems and is suited to push new reforms”.
When asked about the position of women in the present world, she said, “Still women is perceived to be week and frail, she is taught that you are born to fight, fight with society, rituals, myths and men domination, but one should not forget that it was not Chanakya and Ashoka who dreamt of ‘Akhand Bharat’ but she was the mother of Puru, Anusuya who had been killed for dreaming so.” We salute the Indian women, An Indian women is a daughter, a wife, a daughter in law,a mother and if the circumstances demand an Indian Woman can be a Jhansi Ki Rani, a Durga, a Chandi Mata and above all a SeetaMaata. Hats off to all Working Indian women for maintaining a balancebetween the office and home and it is important to note that the present Government has noticed the true power and potential of Indian women and allowed them to be there not only in Indian military but also in Air force and Navy to fight with the enemies of Nation.
Dr Rajeev Dingra