An ER doctor’s dedication

Dr Minoli Erandathie De Silva

Emergency Doctor, Colombo North Teaching Hospital-Ragama

Clad in scrubs, Dr Minoli de Silva’s day starts as soon as she walks through the doors of the Emergency Treatment Unit (ETU). She scans the waiting room gauging how crazy the day is going to be. She grabs her N95 mask, a visor, goggles, adorns her full PPE, and gets to work which typically ranges from 8-12 hour shifts. Her department ebbs and flows throughout the day, one minute it’s slow and the next she has critically ill patients crashing at the same time, outcries of families, and she has to multi-task.“People come to us in the worst possible state,” she says, “and what makes it worthwhile is knowing that I can make them better. This is why I love working in the ER; the human connection you experience when you are there for someone, at a point when no one else can help them.” Being able to work at the frontline of a pandemic has been quite an accomplishment, she acknowledges.

With the onset of the pandemic, she has to make decisions a lot quicker and work for longer. With the PPE, it gets even more difficult. “Within a few minutes, I start sweating profusely, it’s insanely hot. My glasses fog up and the mask makes it harder to draw breaths. And I have to run around the ETU caring for patients. Even a simple task like inserting a cannula is ten times harder now,” she explains.

The pandemic has put her in a precarious situation. This disease is different. “We were scared and that is a human thing. You are not scared for yourself, but you are scared for your families,” she said before adding that she lives with elderly parents. “My biggest fear was passing it on to them unknowingly. That guilt will be too much to bear,” she says. Healthcare workers like her were working under tremendous stress, with less equipment and inadequacies. But they weren’t disheartened by it and still tried to deliver their best. “We took up the challenge without any hesitation. There’s not a single patient we turned away. Even if you have Covid for a fact and if you come to me, I would do what’s necessary and look after you. I won’t let you die in my watch,” she says firmly, “and that’s the mindset we work with in the emergency unit.”