BEST bus conductor beats virus, returns to work

Suhas Pawar

Suhas Pawar  

‘Society should ensure recovered patients don’t face stigma’

“This can happen to anyone of us and I can now say it is possible to recover,” said Suhas Pawar, a 38-year-old bus conductor at Goregaon depot, who was among the first employees of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking to test positive for COVID-19. Mr. Pawar returned to work last week after recovering from the novel coronavirus.

Mr. Pawar said it is important for people to realise that COVID-19 can be defeated and ensure that recovered patients do not face stigma. “Society has to accept people who have recovered. Otherwise, all efforts to defeat the virus will be in vain. I felt people’s perceptions change when I rejoined duty,” he said.

In the first few days, he said, people sat away from him in the office canteen and “only my friends continued to interact with me”.

Importance of testing

Mr. Pawar said, “There is fear about this disease, but people need to know that you can recover and return to your daily routine.” He said many people now ask him about the disease and its symptoms. “I tell all of them that they should get tested and as early as possible. People’s outlook towards the disease is crucial. If there is support then people won’t hesitate to get themselves tested.”

As of Wednesday, nearly 150 BEST workers have tested positive, while 70 have recovered. Mr. Pawar said when he was admitted to HBT Trauma Care Hospital in Jogeshwari on April 18, “there were very few cases and we did not know who was getting infected and how”.

He said, “I remember getting a call from a woman doctor. She told me that I had tested positive for COVID-19. I felt tense, but she told me that I shouldn’t face any problem as I was young and did not have underlying conditions.”

After Mr. Pawar informed authorities that he had contracted the virus, 15 people who lived with him at the depot’s resting room were placed in quarantine. Their samples were tested and the reports returned negative.

Mr. Pawar said support of people is also crucial for COVID-19 patients and their families. “There was a doctor in my ward who had tested positive and like me, he did not have a family in the city. At least my friends came to check on me. It is important that patients do not feel they are fighting this battle alone.” Mr. Pawar said BEST officers would regularly call him to enquire about his health.

Neighbours resist

After 12 days of treatment, Mr. Pawar was discharged and placed in a quarantine centre in Vile Parle (East) till May 10. The BEST then allotted him a room in its staff quarters in Malvani.

“However, the residents asked me to go somewhere else. Where could I go? My family lives in Satara and transport services were shut,” he said. BEST officials then stepped in and calmed the residents. Mr. Pawar has been living at the quarters since then.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 8:31:12 AM |

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