MYMonashAlumni: Frontliner Story 4

I was stationed at SARI/PUI ward at Hospital Sultan Ismail (HSI). This is where patients will be admitted while awaiting result confirmation. I work in the Oncology Department. Thus, being sent to a medical-based ward was a challenge for me. Then again, you are a doctor first before you are an oncologist/orthopaedic surgeon/paediatrician etc. That's what happened to all of us. We sort of 'relearned' our basic skills and medical-related management.

Most days, we are short of the three-layer PPE (the Astronaut looking one). If you have that, you just need to do one to two layers maximum. However, some days, we make do with a modified version. You can see from the picture with my name on it. There are two thick layers underneath with five aprons on top.

We are not allowed to switch on the fan/air-conditioning due to the virus' nature of spread - causing us to be constantly soaked in sweat. I have had friends who would pour 'sweat' out from their boots! We do everything from changing bedsheets/pampers to assessing patients, serving meds etc. That's the only challenging bit if you ask me. To be able to draw blood/set CVL and stabilise patients when you are just suffocating beneath your suit, sweating. And oh, did I mention that after some time, the face shield becomes foggy and I can hardly see anything? But then again, I had a very memorable experience.

We connect better with our patients because we are practically the only people they communicate with - without really knowing our faces that is. The bond established is rather unique and special, I must say. Everyone is at their most vulnerable state. We are both in fear - fear of being infected and getting others infected. I can't express it better. Yet we pull through. I am glad I am a part of it indeed. We had patients collapsing, not making it through. But we also cheer when results are negative, and when we send them out.

Dr Hema Johnson
Monash Alumna (2015/2016)