Braving all odds and adversities… Dr Sushma Bhatnagar

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

It’s been over a month now since this ruthless pandemic has unleashed its rage, shattering everything it touches. The surge of the second wave was sudden! We could not foresee the severity, and were therefore caught off guard.

Its merciless wings swept across the entire country.  The Death toll shot up, emergencies broke out everywhere and over 3 lakh Covid 19 infections were recorded by the end of April 2021; all of which culminated in stressing our health facilities as it was way beyond the capacity of our current health care system.

The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic hit us hard as it uprooted everyone from our normal life. It is heart-breaking to witness the sufferings of thousands of people. It is also gut wrenching  to experience so many deaths within a short span of time, as we continue to work desperately and harness all our efforts towards saving as many lives as we could.

It is an extremely challenging time for a country like India to fight this sudden surge. Our resources are limited; on the contrary, the emergency is huge! Initially, the infections rose rapidly limiting our capacity to provide effective care to those who were seriously ill. The entire health system was stretched beyond its capacity. We, as health professionals, are trying our best. Despite of all our collective efforts, hundreds of our people have died without access to effective medical care, oxygen, and other essential medicines.

The  healthcare professionals grappled with the dire and distressing situation as they were unable to provide care to all those who needed it. The sheer volume of infected persons was so overwhelming, that we just could not reach out to all of them in time. To say the least, we have been working selflessly and tirelessly 24*7 ever since the surge of the second wave began by mid-April.

We prioritized national duty over anything else, risking the safety of our own families and our  own personal safety. It is devastating to see the burdened and exhausted faces of our colleagues who are often on repeated shifts, in ICUs and wards, as they push themselves to do their bit  in this catastrophe. We have already lost hundreds of our colleagues, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals, who stood with us shoulder-to-shoulder in this fight, without having the time to grieve for our loss. Yet,  we continue to fight relentlessly with the available resources. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of time to rest.

Grief, distress, stress, we also do feel all these. Yet, we ought to care for the  thousands, who are still in hospitals, and in home isolation.  Saddled with an infrastructure that was not prepared for this sudden surge and with other resources being limited, it is extremely difficult for a country like India, to have an upper hand as we manoeuvre  this unprecedented health related challenge.

Our worst nightmare seems to materializing as infections and emergencies are now being reported in rural India; a region that was spared during the first wave. Solutions and strategies are being developed and designed as we attempt  to save our rural population, as health care facilities are limited or quite scarce in Indian villages.

As I am writing this, I do recognize a slow decline in the infection rate and death toll; but we are still scared. The uncertainty prevails. Now, there are lock-downs and travel restrictions imposed across the country to curtail the spread of infections. I shudder to think of what might happen once we begin relaxing norms and lift the lockdowns. While I acknowledge the astronomical task of vaccinating our country’s entire population, with limited resources to rely upon, the harsh reality is that only a small percentage of our people  are vaccinated.  Acute shortage of vaccines is another major resource limitation.  The worst of it all is that we anticipate another wave, the third wave.

In the midst of all this chaos, the shining silver lining is the united effort and support extended from the international community towards India, during her time of crisis. Kind gestures from various countries including the USA, the UK, France, Singapore, Russia, the Middle East nations, and several others, are in the form of  support by sending across cargoes of medicines and oxygen, which have already reached India. There are other mechanisms by which support is also extended. We, as a country, are deeply humbled and are at a loss of words to express our gratitude!

I also wish to highlight that our colleagues, the innumerable palliative care providers, are silently continuing their mission braving all odds and adversities. A big salute to their selfless commitment!


Dr. Sushma Bhatnagar

President, IAPC,

Head , Department of Onco- Anaesthesia and Palliative Care

Chairperson of COVID services, NCI,

Dr BRA IRCH, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi


ehospice is grateful to Dr Sushma Bhatnagar for finding time to share news from the front line of care in India and out thoughts go out to her and everyone in India living in the heart of this storm.

We encourage readers to now read the poem Hibernation by Ms Nanditha Vismaya, a first year Bachelor of Design (B. Des) student with Srishti Manipal Institute, Bengaluru, India.


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