The Superhero who Fought COVID-19 as a Frontliner and Survivor
A pregnant nurse serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Priyanka caught the infection herself and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl while admitted in the ICU
My job as a PR professional often gives me the opportunity to meet and interact with people from various walks of life and write about their unique experiences. One such person I met recently was Priyanka, a 34-year-old nurse and a mother of three, who not only served on the frontlines of her hospital’s healthcare force during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also put up a brave fight to bounce back after being critically ill as a result of Coronavirus infection.
Hailing from Kerala, India, Priyanka worked as a senior nurse at a private hospital in Ajman, UAE. With over 10 years’ work experience, Priyanka was liked and respected by the hospital’s regular patients as well as her co-workers and the management. Married to Sumesh, a fellow Keralite, Priyanka had always longed to have a daughter, her first two kids being boys. When she became pregnant with the couple’s third child in 2019, Priyanka was sure all along that this was going to be her long-awaited daughter. Due in July 2020, she decided to continue working as long as she could, as she was feeling healthy and confident and at no stage of her pregnancy were there any complications. By early 2020, both her sons, aged 8 and 6, had been sent to India under the temporary care of their grandparents, in preparation of her impending delivery.
However, things changed by March 2020. The global pandemic changed the lives of people and modified the operations of several business sectors, with healthcare being the most profoundly impacted. Although she was nearing her final trimester, Priyanka cheerfully adapted to the changes and did her best to ensure that she was able to assist expectant moms at the OBG & gynecology department where she was posted. Being a mom-to-be herself, she was able to bond with her patients and extend them confidence and comfort.
In May 2020, an unexpected event changed Priyanka’s life in ways she had never anticipated. One day, experiencing an unusual shortness of breath and fever, she got herself tested for COVID-19, and the result confirmed her worst fears. Admitted to the COVID-19 wing of same hospital where she worked, her condition changed from bad to worse in the matter of a few days, and soon, she had to be shifted to the ICU. She was in her 32nd week of pregnancy when this was happening. Her condition deteriorated further and she developed pneumonia, soon slipping into unconsciousness and requiring ventilator support to keep her alive. At this stage, the doctors had no other option but to perform a C-section to save her baby. Luckily, the baby wasn’t infected, and was shifted to the NICU immediately after birth.
Priyanka’s condition aggravated further, requiring her to be shifted to a different hospital with specialized ventilator care for COVD-19 patients. As she was being shifted, many of her colleagues at the hospital bid her a tearful farewell, thinking they would never be able to see her alive again.
Priyanka’s husband Sumesh remembers those harrowing days when he had to shuttle daily between the ICU to check on his wife and the NICU to keep tabs on the condition of their prematurely born daughter. This went on for some time. Sumesh says he kept hoping for a miracle, knowing fully well that Priyanka wasn’t someone who would give up easily.
Gradually, Priyanka’s condition started showing improvement and she was off ventilator support in 20 days. She subsequently tested negative one day, with a repeat test confirming that she was completely out of the infection. She was discharged from the hospital after a few days. Finally, after 40 days of her daughter’s birth, Priyanka got to see the little one and hold her in her arms. It was every bit an emotional reunion.
Priyanka and Sumesh had one huge problem to take care of, though. Their medical bills had run into a huge amount. However, the hospital management came to their rescue and waived off all their bills including the baby’s NICU charges, in recognition of her decade-long services, and acknowledging her contributions as a COVID-19 frontliner. “We had never experienced so much love, care and prayers ever. We cannot thank the hospital management enough for their magnanimous gesture. All along, the support and prayers of our near and dear ones kept reassuring me everything would be alright,” said Sumesh. The couple named their newborn Prarthana (meaning ‘prayer’ in their mother-tongue Malayalam), as a mark of gratitude for all the prayers and support they received.
On 29th Juy 2020, the hospital held a special function to felicitate Priyanka on her miraculous recovery. The hospital also bid farewell to its last COVID-19 patient at the same function, officially closing down its COVID wing.
Priyanka is eager to join back for duty after completing the 6 months’ rest she has been advised. She firmly believes that her experience as a critically-ill patient has added to the passion for her profession. “This experience has widened my perspectives in many ways and will go a long way in further improving the way I take care of my patients,” she says.