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Indian Doctor who made the difference where it mattered the most, in centre of Ebolo Crisis

Not everyone has the courage to stay in a region which is the epicentre of Ebola, this disease has no specific treatment or vaccine for the virus. We proud to share a small story on Kalyani Gomathinayagam, general physician based in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, who has just returned from Liberia.

Dr Kalyani with the Liberia national hospital staff. Photograph: Martin Zinggl/MSF

Dr Kalyani with the Liberia national hospital staff. Photograph: Martin Zinggl/MSF

Through 2013, the World Health Organization reported a total of 1,716 cases in 24 outbreaks. The largest outbreak to date is the ongoing epidemic in West Africa, which is centered in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. As of 1 December 2014, this outbreak has 17,290 reported cases resulting in 6,460 deaths. Dr. Kalyani Gomathinayagam was right in middle during this crisis which has traumatised the world.

Gomathinayagam, 46, joined Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF (Doctors Without Borders) after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. She has served as an emergency doctor in the Ivory Coast, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo before her stint in Liberia, from where she returned to Delhi on 20 October after being quarantined for 21 days in Geneva, Switzerland.

In her interview to Livemint, she mentions; The most difficult part was to administer any kind of treatment without coming in physical contact with the patient. (In treating) this disease, everything is complicated. The patients can only see my eyes and recognize my voice, and I have to shout through a perimeter to be heard. Everything has to be done from across the ‘perimeter fencing’. It was challenging to gain the community’s trust because all they (see) is a hazmat suit (protective gear).

Kalyani is no stranger to practising medicine in rough situations. After her medical training in Madurai, and working in rural Kerala, she opted to spend a decade working as a medical officer with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police at extremely isolated regions on the border, including remote places in Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, as well as a stint, once, on the Kailas-Mansarovar yatra route at Kunji Post. Source: Rediff

Dr Kalyani Gomathinayagam (centre) with the Medecins Sans Frontieres team at the hospital in Foya, Liberia in their protective gear. Photograph: Martin Zinggl/MSF

Dr Kalyani Gomathinayagam (centre) with the Medecins Sans Frontieres team at the hospital in Foya, Liberia in their protective gear. Photograph: Martin Zinggl/MSF

In her interview to Rediff, she mentions; “There’s a feeling (of being) helpless in the face of the epidemic. Knowing (that the only thing you can do) is watch and wait to see how the patient recovers. You never know which patients are going to make it. You can (do) guesswork, but you would be surprised that some of them actually do make it and some couldn’t…”

Worse is the grim reality of being utterly powerless while facing an ambush by this ferocious epidemic. “At some point you know there is nothing else that you can do for them. You have to just wait and watch them die… Sometimes you feel helpless, like about how much you can do. If that happens five times a day you start (wondering) if you are actually doing something useful or not for the patient…”

In heard wrecking story published in The Telegraph truly speaks of her remarkable character and mental strength. In her fourth week at an Ebola camp in Liberia, Kalyani Gomathinayagam carried a six-year-old boy in her arms from his bed to the edge of a high-risk ward to allow his father a final glimpse of his son.

The father, a primary school teacher, reached out across the transparent plastic barriers, handed the boy a can of orange-flavoured drink, and prepared to speak words of comfort. But the boy, in an advanced stage of Ebola virus disease (EVD) and bleeding profusely from his nose, softly indicated he was tired and wanted to lie down.

Gomathinayagam had no choice but to carry the boy back to his bed where he died about two hours later. The guilt of separating father and son in their last moments together hasn’t left her.

We salute this brave lady, she will certainly be role model for many!

 

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