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Lakshmanasamudram S Mohanram

For a month, from mid-May to mid-June, Mohan was deployed at migrant workers’ dormitories to help manage COVID-19 infections among the residents. He is back in SNEC as his specialist training is in short supply, but looks back fondly at his volunteering stint. “I miss volunteering,” he says. “It was fulfilling to help people during a crisis; I was very happy to go and help.”

Able to speak a few Indian languages, it was no surprise that Mohan volunteered to be a translator, since many of the dorm residents hail from India. “I’m from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu,” he shares. “I know Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. Most of the patients speak Tamil and Telugu. There are Bengali patients, too; I don’t speak that language, but some of them understand Hindi.” At the dorm medical post, Mohan stepped in when doctors needed help explaining certain terms to the patients; he also translated what the doctor said. This really sped up the consultation process. In addition, Mohan describes how relieved the patients became once they “finally knew what was happening”.

Although Mohan volunteered to be a translator, he was roped in to do much more. “I was part of the admin team, playing various roles — patient registration, ushering, assist nurses and doctors, reporting daily patient status, and site logistics.” The role he performed for the day depended on which station he was posted to. But it was helping the foreign workers directly that gave him the most satisfaction as, he admits, “I’m not very good at admin work, as I’m usually directly involved in patient care at SNEC.”

What made admin work even more challenging was the need to do it while wearing full PPE. “We really perspired a lot!” Mohan quips. Because of safety protocols, drinking water was next to impossible, especially when things got busy, so “we drank a lot of water before we suited up”. What mitigated his physical discomfort was seeing how everyone stepped up to help, regardless of rank and experience. “Even the doctors were wiping down the patient’s chair after a consultation. Nobody waited for someone else to do it.”