All the new cases are asymptomatic Credit: Representational image

Gangtok: Amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in Sikkim, a heart-wrenching story of two women deciding to take care of each other’s kids has come to the fore.

It all started when a woman in Sikkim tested positive for COVID-19. Incidentally, her 3-year-old son tested negative for the novel coronavirus. It was then that the authorities at STNM Hospital in Gangtok came to know of a 2.3 year old child testing positive but her mother remaining COVID-free and thought of “exchanging” their babies, so that better care could be provided to both of them.

The two patients were part of the 14 latest cases who were found to be positive for COVID-19 in the state.

The state health department on Friday morning informed that the youngest of the 14 positive cases from among the returnees was a 2.3 years old baby. In all, there are two kids under the age of 3 years, apart from a six-year-old.

“The bright side for the six-year-old COVID-19 patient was that his entire family has tested positive, giving him company. But the sad part is for the baby whose mother tested negative while he tested positive,” informed a senior paediatrician from STNM Hospital requesting anonymity.

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The state health department learned of the 14 positive cases late Thursday night. “The hospital had to take a decisive action at midnight, on what to do with the infant who turned positive but his mother was negative. Then a decision was taken to facilitate the infant with another mother who tested positive. The concern for the mother taking care of the COVID-19 positive baby was also for her own child who tested negative. So, the two mothers opted to switch their babies for better care,” informed the paediatrician.

Meanwhile, the positive baby is being taken care of by the COVID positive mother inside the isolation ward at STNM Hospital. The COVID negative baby is being taken care of by the negative mother at the Paljor Namgyal Girls’ Senior Secondary School quarantine facility in Gangtok.

Among the 14 new patients, while 12 are from Mumbai, two are from West Bengal with 11 being female and 3 male. All the new cases are asymptomatic.

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The decision taken by the State government can be against the laid down protocols and guidelines, but the paediatrician admitted, “We tried to improvise at the spot. This is being done to curtail the spread of virus to the baby and the mother who turned negative. So, this was necessary and needed to be carried out. It is a worrying scenario but both the parents reached an understanding,” informed the paediatrician.

Meanwhile, according to East Sikkim district magistrate Raj Yadav, the three quarantine facilities where the 14 positive cases were identified have been sealed and declared as containment zones. “On June 11, there were 21 people in the EPICA Garden quarantine facility, 13 km from the State capital at Saramsa. Bahai School in Saramsa had 49 people and PNG School in the heart of Gangtok town had 48 people. All of whom have been identified as primary contacts with procedure to follow for their testing at STNM Hospital,” informed the district magistrate.

Currently, the COVID section of STNM Hospital has a strength of 40 health workers, who will be completing their seven-day service on Saturday. A fresh new batch will take charge on Saturday led by senior doctors Dr Suresh Rasaily and Dr Ruth Yonzon, with the latter being one of the most recognised paediatricians in the state.

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Meanwhile, speaking exclusively with EastMojo, assistant medical superintendent Dr Yudok Bhutia said that the baby is doing fine. “Every team has a paediatrician and Dr Sanjeev Prasad is leading the charge for paediatric cases in the isolation ward. The nurses at our disposal are taking care of the baby properly, with Cerelac being provided since last night,” the doctor said.

The negative mother could not be brought to the hospital. After seven days, the baby will be tested again. The technical committee will decide upon the case in the next 3-4 days, it was informed.

On the dosage of medicine for the positive baby, Dr Yudok revealed that it depends on the weight of the child. “The baby is lucky to have a recognised paediatrician at its disposal and with the head of the paediatric department Dr Ruth Yonzon taking over the reins tomorrow, the baby is in safe hands,” the doctor said.

Sanitization drive underway at PNG Senior Secondary School quarantine facility where a majority of the 14 new cases sprung up on Thursday night

“In case the baby cannot stay alone, we are deciding on whether to bring the parent (negative mother) or not. When the baby is comfortable in its stay, we feel why unnecessarily bring the negative mother to the isolation ward and expose? But bringing her is a secondary option,” stated Bhutia.

“We had to take prompt decision, we had initially decided on bringing the negative mother as well. But we can’t do the crime of bringing the negative baby along with its positive mother. The mother could have taken the consent and could have come along with the baby. But the baby being innocent, how could we bring the negative baby along with its positive mother, so repeat test if it reveals to be positive again, then we could consider,” added Bhutia.

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Meanwhile, the quarantine incharge at PNG Senior Secondary School, Shyam Pradhan, senior faculty of the school, said, “It’s almost poetic that a situation of a mother and child like this happened in our school, which has groomed many mothers in the state. It also asserts that a mother doesn’t become one just by giving birth to a child, but also taking care of someone else’s baby. The two mothers, one positive and one negative, showed exemplary courage and understanding in dealing with the situation. He further said that parents with students need not worry about the future of their children as PNG school has a big compound spread across 1.5 km in Gangtok.

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