For health care workers, the struggle against the coronavirus pandemic is a war on two fronts. They both try to help others recover, while occasionally getting infected in doing so.
Grief and stress are parts of their everyday business now as the number of patients surge in the country. At the Şehit Rıdvan Çevik hospital in eastern Turkey's Van, doctors and nurses are embattled with emotions of their own and haunted by those of their patients. They work long shifts and cannot see their families for days due to the risk of infection.
The hospital's chief physician, Suat Altın, says they act as a bridge between the patients and the outside world, as no one else is allowed in the pandemic wing of the hospital. "Our staff attend to all the needs of the patients. It is a painful, troublesome process for patients. Think about it. You cannot breathe properly, you cannot see your loved ones and you are not certain if you will see them again. This is what our patients, who recovered after staying a long time at intensive care for, tell us," he told Anadolu Agency (AA) Monday. "People are more concerned about their loved ones, whether they are infected too and suffering than fearing their own possible death. Seeing them in this state is painful for us too. We are affected by every patient we lose," he said.
Sedat Öztürk, a doctor working in the pandemic wing, was infected himself after helping others recover. He was spared from intensive care but says his health heavily deteriorated after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month. The 32-year-old says people falsely believe that younger patients suffer less but this is not the case. "I have seen patients of all ages here, from 1 year old to 80. I have seen patients who could hardly breathe though they were as young as 20. So, you should not feel confident if you are young and be cautious. This is a painful process. Even staying alone in a room for a long time is painful," he says.
Öztürk underwent a treatment that took a month and was confined to his bed on the 15th day. "I could not stand up. It was difficult but I managed to beat the virus and get back to work. We are working here to help people recover and we expect people to be more careful about following the rules against the pandemic," he said.
Latife Kaçmaz, a nurse at the hospital who also recovered from the virus, says she now understands patients better. "It can land you in intensive care in a short time. You cannot describe what these people go through," she says.
The total number of coronavirus patients in Turkey currently stands at more than 377,000 while fatalities rose to 10,326. More than 325,000 people have recovered from the disease while the total number of tests exceeds 14 million.