Dr Neiphrezo Sorünuo (second from left) along with his team at Aboi CHC Credit: EastMojo Image

Kohima: Following the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers have been working day in and day out exposing themselves to mental and emotional horrors besides the risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus. Working for the people in a remote area in Nagaland, a doctor opens up about the “silent tears” shed by the medical frontline workers.

Dr Neiphrezo Sorünuo (34), Junior Dental Surgeon, who is currently the Surveillance Medical Officer (SMO) in charge of the Community Health Centre (CHC) in Aboi under Mon district is at present the only doctor overseeing the quarantine facilities in Aboi town, IRB Camp QF and Angjangyang block QF.

Mon district recorded the highest number of people returning to the state since the time the first special train brought back people to Nagaland on May 22. While there were two other doctors at the CHC, one doctor resigned in May this year to pursue further studies and the other was assigned to the Covid Care Centre (CCC) in Mon by May end.

Speaking with EastMojo, the doctor said that with the shortage of manpower, he was left to look after the CHC and the quarantine facilities. He recounted how the medical team, administration, police, pastors and leaders of the NGOs spent sleepless nights waiting to welcome the returnees.

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Being assigned duty at an outpost comes with its own share of challenges as it is made to function with very limited resources and facilities, besides the limited manpower. “But that does not matter much when you have the zeal and passion to serve the less privileged people. I have being doing my bit of service for the past six years,” he humbly said.

The 34-year-old doctor recalled how he resumed service 10 days after he tied the knot in January this year. “As duty calls, I reported within 10 days of marriage to my posting place at CHC Aboi along with my lovely wife,” he said. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, gradually work load increased as the state entered stage of preparedness.

Frontline workers in Aboi

“Days turned into nights and there was endless trainings, online webinars, setting up of quarantine centres. This was followed by imparting trainings and sensitization programs at the sub-division level for both medical and non medical personnel,” the doctor said.

As returnees came back and cases were been detected he said that the workload increased manifold for all. “Especially for the medical personnel, it has been a hard fight and there is still a huge battle ahead. In the midst of this fight, I am God for giving me a God fearing lady who has been standing by my side all this time,” he said.

With the increase in work and the limited manpower, he said that his wife assisted in paper works, food preparation for all the lab technicians doing the sample collection and the ambulance drivers on covid duty. Despite the efforts of the frontline workers, he regretted that frontline workers were made to face stigmatization in the society.

So far, 410 persons have undergone quarantine in Aboi under Mon district with most of them staying over 30 days, some up to 59 days due to the district quarantine policy. A total of 34 persons tested positive out of which five are frontline workers. Besides the quarantine facilities, there is also a Covid Recovery Centre (CRC) for COVID-19 recovered patients.

Dr Neiphezo acknowledged the EAC Aboi Lithrila Anar Sangtam who has been diligently and sincerely rendering her selfless service for the people. Blessed with a boy, she has been rendering her best service for the people, he added.

Braving all odds, frontline workers continue to perform duties

As he also acknowledged his wife as his biggest support, he revealed that the past days have been really hard as it hit them emotionally, mentally and psychologically. “When the workload increased, my wife who was pregnant for over two months had a miscarriage. It has taken me a while to realize that she is still going through a deep emotional pain of the loss”, he emotionally tells EastMojo.

The pain of the newly married couple losing their first child while in the fight against COVID-19 in Nagaland’s remote area, far away from home is indescribable. The doctor said that as believers, they fasted and prayed for God’s comfort, healing and has surrendered everything to him, resting in the assurance that god is almighty and in control. He also revealed that to support him, his wife had given up on her career.

“It pains my heart to see the one I love dearly going through the pain and shedding silent tears all alone as I am unable to give her my time because of the workload,” the doctor said. With no vehicle attached to medical officers on duty, he took it upon himself to ferry the medical team for screening and reception of returnees, security guards on duty and for every medical emergencies besides beating the pathetic roads to reach quarantine facilities.

Dr Neiphrezo inspects the village quarantine huts after villagers refused to release returnees

The doctor also highlighted an incident when returnees who were quarantined in a field were refused to be released by the village community without a doctor’s approval even after completion of the required quarantine period.

He recalled walking to the field after reaching the village for physical inspection. “The returnees came back from Kerela after many years but due to stigmatization and strict village rules, these returnees could not meet their families. It was indeed heartwarming to see the families unite,” he added.

He also revealed that an old gypsy ambulance, which is barely functional, has been used to its maximum limit for all the emergency duties from transportation of screening team, disinfectant team and transportation of Covid-19 positive patients to the CCC in Mon.

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“But there is nothing like coming back home after a stressful duty to be welcomed by a warm hug, warm water ready for bath and the aroma of the mouth watering food prepared in the kitchen,” he gladly added.

While his allegiance is to serve the community in need, he said also longs to be home with his loved ones, friends and family. He added “Left alone at the outpost, with not many friends is also adding to her misery and I see the sacrifices she is making to keep the vows to be together ‘in good and bad times”.

Frontline workers at Aboi

As he bravely leads the force in fighting COVID-19, Dr Neiphrezo said that like him, there will be many other medical frontline workers silently fighting their own fight.

“Although this is my personal story, in a way I have a feeling that there may be other medical frontline workers like me who may also be able to relate with me,” he said.

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