This Delhi doctor’s message went viral

Enlightening residents: Dr. Ambarish Satwik Photo: Special Arrangement  

At about the same time that Dr. Ambarish Satwik’s largely medical messaging was taking place this week, there was another, put out by Kent for their atta and bread maker. It enunciated the classism that many RWA groups have reflected over the past few weeks, in keeping domestic workers away from their jobs.

While the primary aim of Dr. Satwik’s seven-point WhatsApp message, shared on his Gulmohar Park residents group, was not to tackle the discriminatory practice, it was in part, meant to remind people to avoid being prejudiced against someone who got the COVID-19 virus. “You can’t stigmatise this particular family; you can’t stop walking down a particular street,” he says, of a person being detected with the virus in his locality. “There was a lot of misinformation and speculation about what to do next,” he says, of discussions everywhere, including on family WhatsApp groups.

While the phone-typed message itself was over 1,000 words long, it was just meant as a neighbourhood note, and Dr. Satwik had no idea it would go viral. “It was meant to just give the residents the lay of the land: what to expect and what they should do,” he says, following the initial panic of the pandemic and later that of the colony finding one of their own with the virus.

He’s understanding of the panic: “You’d expect stuff like this — nobody quite knows where this is going, what the chances of acquiring the infection are, so you try to theorise.” His patients though, have been resigned to the situation, “submitting themselves to treatment”.

Dr. Satwik, who works as a vascular and endovascular surgeon in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, is part of a family of physicians. For doctors, things haven’t been easy, despite the fact that he says Ganga Ram has been especially proactive with precautions to make it COVID compliant, to prevent as much as possible, the chances of cross infection. They’ve retrofitted air-conditioning, and been actively fogging and fumigating the premises, but it’s not just another day at the office. “Pandemics are always different. One should just process this rationally, be stoic about it and trudge along. I don’t think any of us will abandon out post,” he says of his family, his mother a pathologist, his father a general physician, and his partner, a gynaecologist.

His hope is that our leadership spend broadcast time on messaging, talking of the risk increasing even as the lockdown eases up.

It may help in containing the spread of COVID-19, the panic associated with it, and in its de-stigmatisation.

While he’s been a part of the editorial working group of the previously-in-house, now peer-reviewed Current Medicine Research and Practice, for about 10 years now, he rarely writes for a lay audience on medical themes. In 2007, Penguin published his book Perineum: Nether Parts of the Empire, a work of historical fiction. He has also written on the cultural and political subjects for several publications, including for The Hindu Business Line.

The main takeaways from his WhatsApp message

Community transmission of COVID-19 is properly underway and the epidemic is just about taking off in Delhi.

There is no evidence whatsoever that any medicine or therapeutic intervention can prevent or treat COVID-19 infection.

In the absence of a drug or a vaccine, most of us are going to get infected over the next few weeks / months...That said, COVID-19 isn’t the plague or Ebola. In about 80% cases this infection would be completely harmless. Even in the elderly, getting COVID-19 isn’t the equivalent of getting a death sentence.

About 70% of us will have to get infected for the community to acquire herd immunity.

No matter who you are and how old you are, do not step out without a mask. A simple mask is good enough, an N95 is even better, but please do not use N95 masks or Vogmasks with exhaust valves... Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth. It’s instructive to note that even if you’re in the presence of a COVID-19 infected individual and they’re masked and not coughing and you are yourself masked, the probability of you getting the infection is minuscule.

Learn optimal mask hygiene. Consider the outer surface of your mask contaminated and carrying the virus if you’ve been in close proximity of other people. Do not touch the outer surface of the mask. Remove the mask by disengaging the earloops without touching the outer surface and discard it (if disposable) or wash it immediately on return.

Treat every individual you meet as an asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier. Treat every surface you touch as potentially contaminated. That is the meaning of community transmission. Carry a sanitiser on your person. Frequently sanitise your hands after touching surfaces or objects… Avoid stepping out, as much as possible, particularly for non-essential activities. Give Delhi’s healthcare apparatus a fighting chance.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 2:04:56 AM |

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