Sister Beena: Pain, doctors infected with COVID, the discovery of God (II)
by Sr. Dr Beena Madhavath, UMI

The fight against the virus comes with pressures from family members and the media as well as the segregation of medical personnel. In this second part, Sister Beena Madhavath, is a member of the Congregation of the Ursulines of Mary Immaculate and trained doctor, continues her pilgrimage amid the COVID-19 plague.


Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Treating COVID-19 patients in Mumbai's Holy Family Hospital is a source of joy (see first part) but also pain, especially when doctors and nurses are infected with the virus and fear spreads among family members and the medical staff. Facing such a difficult and sometimes tragic situation can only happen thanks to the prayers and support from friends and the Christian community. Sr Beena Madhavath, a member of the Congregation of the Ursulines of Mary Immaculate, here provides the second part of her story.

Painful experiences

Having shared joyful stories, let me also share the challenges faced by healthcare workers and hospitals. To put on the personal protective kit and work in the isolation ward is a unique experience. Once the personal protective equipment (PPE) is donned, one cannot eat, drink or use the washroom till the duty shift ends, which is six hours or more.

The suffocating PPE: Wearing PPE, an N 95 mask, goggles and face shield, gives a suffocating feeling to most of us. Many a time, misting of the protective goggles causes blurred vision. After donning we have to speak loudly in order to be heard, and it becomes very tiring to communicate with patients and other members in the medical team, resulting in frequent fatigue. In addition to this, a lot of information has to be given on telephone, as anxious relatives can’t come to the isolation ward. Besides this, the weather in Mumbai is so hot and humid that we are drenched in sweat within minutes after putting on the PPE. This makes it really hard to move around. With all these difficulties, no wonder frontline warriors of the COVID-19 are feeling exhausted and stressed out.

Anxiety of the caregivers and their parents: There is a lot of anxiety among family members of our medical team who are far away in their homes. Ever since the COVID-19 numbers rose high in India, there are horrifying news about Mumbai in many news channels. Many of our nursing staff from southern India are compelled by their parents to resign from their job. This is an additional burden on us. Along with other members of the management team I have to spend a lot of time listening, reassuring and motivating them. Some of them even had to miss important family celebrations and events. Few of our nurses also had to postpone their own weddings. I wonder whether anyone will remember their sacrifices and selfless service in caring for the sick and suffering humanity.

Caregivers contracting infection: About a month ago a doctor and three nuns from my team started showing COVID-19 symptoms. They eventually tested positive and were admitted to the same isolation ward. The news of their sickness shook me. I was distressed and anxious. On the one hand, I worry about their well-being; on the other hand, I fear contracting the illness. I was stressed about the COVID-19 ward management because of acute human resources shortage. That is when we developed a strategy and backup plan for human resources constrains.

Pressure from activists and media: Mumbai has some of the finest health facilities and doctors. Yet certain times it is difficult to manage them. We have refused patients due to the lack of beds. It is unfortunate that we were pressured by some media houses and activists to admit COVID-19 positive patients even with the non-availability of beds. This was not only stressful, but the misinformation, the biased partial truth fed through newspapers and social media, has had a negative and demotivating impact on our personnel who are dedicated beyond the call of duty. It is extremely sad that doctors and medical staff, who are the frontline warriors in the fight against the pandemic are at the receiving end of threatening calls from some activists and agitated relatives.

Experiencing the divine in the midst of crisis

While the COVID-19 global crisis has caused a lot of anxiety, suffering and uncertainty, for us it has also been a time of intense prayer. Many of our sister communities have offered special prayers for us. Their prayers and support have helped us gather courage, wisdom and strength in such days of trials. I experienced God’s providence and protection in a tangible way as we received spiritual and material support from many friends, well-wishers and benefactors. Their generosity and magnanimity helped our hospital steer ahead even when we suffered from financial crises. The powerful presence of the Divine Healer and his miraculous healing touch is experienced by all of us, especially our patients as they are restored back to health and wholeness.

Amidst all these challenges we are committed to fight this deadly pandemic. The exceptional courage, heroic commitment, relentless efforts, and yeomen service rendered by many of the healthcare workers to combat COVID 19 are commendable and praiseworthy. I hope and pray that very soon we will be able to find the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary, mother of the afflicted, continue to pray for us, that we may be protected, comforted and guided in this difficult journey.