'India needs a Post-Covid Mind-Body Care Programme for our Frontline Workers'
| Onkareshwar Pandey - Editor in Chief - CEO, IOP - 06 Jan 2021

Exclusive Interview with Dr. Alok Mishra, JS, Evaluation, AIU by Onkareshwar Pandey

"The morale of the health professionals like the doctors and nurses attending to the Covid patients are sinking. As it is, wearing the cumbersome PPE uniform which does not allow them to drink or eat anything and bans them from going to the toilet is a tall order,” says Dr. Alok Mishra, currently Joint Secretary, Evaluation (Foreign Degree), Association of Indian University (AIU), who got infected with Covid-19 recently, and had to be admitted to ICU of AIIMS Trauma Center. He used his time in the Covid ward to observe the situation of people working in the ward and prepared a broad study material concerning Post-Covid Mind-Body Programme. Dr. Mishra, himself a renowned Psychologist and post-doctoral fellow from AIIMS Delhi, is considered to be among the world’s prominent brain analyst. He has analyzed the brain-behavior of people like former President APJ Abdul Kalam, H.H. Dalai Lama, famous cricketer Virat Kohli and Kiran Bedi to name a few. Here are the excerpts of an exclusive interview with Dr. Alok Mishra by Onkareshwar Pandey.

 

Q. Dr. Mishra, What was your first reaction when you were made aware that you are a Covid Positive patient?

I have been constantly working during the lockdown and there have been many times when I felt the symptoms of Covid-19 but testee positive and also I was following all the protocols necessary to prevent it. One of the biggest challenges for me was of accepting that I have been infected with Covid-19 and that’s why as soon as I tested positive for Covid-19 on the 11th of November, my initial reaction was that it can't happen to me and I  insisted on the health officials to conduct one more test.

But as the doctors were sure of the test and also my oxygen level came below the required level, I was advised to get admitted. But something inside me wasn’t accepting it, so I convinced them to allow home quarantine to me by signing an undertaking and self-isolating myself in a room.

Q. When did you accept that you are infected with this deadly disease?

My situation was still normal till 16th but then the fever became constant and I started to have some breathing problems and then my family decided to admit me into AIIMS Trauma Center. I was still confident that this is nothing and I will be okay with it. But when I fell unconscious in the hospital, I felt the fear and after that, I was shifted to ICU on the 17th  as my health was constantly declining.

I think the acceptance of the disease came much earlier but the acceptance of the fact that this can affect me severely came at the time when I was shifted to ICU. Also, more than acceptance, I would say it was the fear that surrounded me or must be surrounding every normal human being.

Q. Being a Psychologist as well as a Covid-19 survivor, what do you think are the challenges a patient goes through?

I think that there are multiple challenges that a person goes through during Covid which are both physical as well as mental. Physically there was too much body weakness as it became difficult for me to even walk for 10 meters and I needed some assistance, while mentally the first fear was of infecting my family members and then the loneliness, fear of death, anxiety, etc, surround us.

Although being a Psychologist I have been able to overcome these fears but this needs to be given attention as a lot of patients were going through these problems and not everyone is capable of overcoming them.

Q. What was your observation during your stay in Covid ward?

After a couple of days in the ICU, I began to feel better but realized that the main impact of this viral disease is on the human mind. A sense of gloom and depression sets in. I decided to use my Psychological knowledge to overpower this emotional obstacle. So, every night I began writing notes in my diary. I scripted positive thoughts as they can help overcome any negativity. It helped me steadily recuperate and become strong enough to walk around in the ward. That’s when I saw that most patients were afflicted with the negative emotions of fear and distress that they would not recover from this crisis. Thus, the environment in the entire ward was depressing and low-spirited. I also sensed that there is a need to look after the health caregiver's health as they are constantly working in this environment for the last 8-9 months and they also need positivity to work more efficiently. 

Q Can you tell us a bit more about your work in the AIIMS Trauma Center while you were admitted?

As I said earlier that the environment in the ward was quite negative and low spirited and I also noticed that the morale of the health professionals like the doctors and nurses attending to the patients was also sinking. I thought that they should be fully motivated and appreciated if they have to continue their selfless service to the patients. As it is, wearing the cumbersome PPE uniform which does not allow them to drink or eat anything and bans them from going to the toilet is a tall order. So, I spoke with the patients and convinced them that we must acknowledge their services to us by greeting them cheerfully. So, I instilled the daily habit of clapping and welcoming whenever the medical or paramedical staff entered the ward.

Scientifically these acts stimulate the limbic system leading to the secretion of dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin that enhance the feelings of happiness, hope, and positivity. Regular practice of these gestures stimulates the acetylcholine release in the hippocampus that converts these experiences into long-term memory and becomes a part of the personality.

Soon these small acts changed the environment of the whole ward and there I felt that these small little things can have a huge impact if strategically applied in other hospitals as well and I decided to formulate a Post-Covid Mind-Body Care Programme. 

Q.  What is the basic idea behind the Post-Covid Mind-Body Care Programme?

There are quite a few aspects of this question. Firstly, We need to understand that the Post-covid situation is not something that we will have to deal with when Covid-19 will be washed away but it’s a situation that we are dealing with currently and will keep on dealing with even after Coronavirus will be washed away. Secondly, as the post-Covid effects are still not precisely known and a detailed study on this is still awaited, there is a subjectivity to it and therefore the program very strategically designed for the survivor as well as the healthcare workers as there is a need for a model for post-covid mind-body care which must include not just the patients but also the frontline workers as they are constantly working in these hard times and they need some rejuvenation to work efficiently. What this post-covid program includes is that detailed information about the post-covid effects should be given to the patient, controlled yoga training, and regular psychological support for the survivors. And for the healthcare workers, many things such as giving rewards, a small gesture of gratification from the patients, regular psychological support, etc.

In this aspect, I also wrote a proposal for developing a Global Post-Covid Mind-Body Rejuvenation Centre.

Q. What are your plans for Post-Covid care for Caregivers?

The idea of the center came to me when I was admitted to the AIIMS Trauma Centre as I was observing the situation there and I felt that there is an urgent need for this not just for the patients but for these frontline workers who are constantly working in these difficult times.  The aim is to create a  Rejuvenation Center where everyone from frontline workers to the patients feels positive and energized to cope with the present situation which will be done through different psychological techniques and ancient techniques like meditation and yoga.

In the proposal sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, I have stated that a  model for the Post-Covid Mind-Body program is needed and we are l willing to initiate a program with AIIMS Trauma Centre for 6 months on a pilot basis.

Also, Corona warriors (healthcare givers) should get various kinds of bravery awards like the personnel of defense forces. A large proportion of healthcare workers including doctors are working in covid hospitals on an Adhoc basis that does not give them the benefits of regular government employees. I emphasized the need to pass on these benefits to the ad hoc workers as well as their risk while serving covid patients is at par with regular employees.  In case of the unfortunate death of the health giver, his or her family should be adequately compensated and one of the family members should be given a government job.

Apart from the proposal, we are also planning to give a bravery award to 11 people from AIIMS including Doctors, Nurses, Ward boys, etc on 26th January 2021 to boost their morale which will work very positively for them and our whole healthcare system.

Q. Do you think post-Covid care is going to be more challenging than the current challenges of Covid?

I think it will not be a correct statement to say that post covid care is more challenging than during covid but it can be said that post covid care needs more attention in the present scenario. As the whole healthcare system is now focused on fighting covid and saving lives, there is very little focus on the situation post covid and mental health of patients and health caregivers, which certainly needs attention for not letting it become a crisis.

Q. Do you think it will be a correct statement to say that the Post- Covid era is not far away as the Vaccine is soon to be rolled out in India?

If by this statement you are suggesting that Covid-19 is going to be washed away by the vaccine then it won’t be a correct statement to make. I think the vaccine is going to be a very strong weapon against Covid-19 and what it will do is that the Post-Covid problems of the survivors can get more attention. What we need to understand is that Covid-19 is not just about trying to save as many lives as possible but also reintroduce the affected people back into society with a positive mindset. And, this is where Vaccine will help us, it will shift the focus of the authority as well as the general public to the challenges of Post-Covid Care.

Q. A lot of people have been challenging the effectiveness of the vaccine selected to be rolled out in India, how do you see this?

In a democratic country, people have the right to question things which includes the efficacy of vaccines. But, what we need to understand is that there cannot be any right without certain duties and therefore as much as we have the right to ask a question about the efficacy of the vaccine, we also have a duty to not let any rumors spread in the country regarding the vaccine because it can create unnecessary difficulty for the entire administration as well as thousands of people working behind this with a single intention of saving people lives. Also, we must trust our doctors for this as this is not a political issue but purely a scientific question that our doctors are equipped to answer.

Q. Do you think vaccines will also help in opening up of schools and colleges in the country?

Firstly, Vaccine is not a magic trick that will get back to normal situation instantly, rather it’s a great weapon that will help and speed-up our fight against this disease. Obviously, our education system faced a lot of issues initially when the lockdown was put all over the country like the issue of digital infrastructure, the divide concerning digital education, etc, but slowly we are getting comfortable with the online medium. Although it can't be said that the situation is perfect but we have improved a lot.

Conerning Post-Covid challenges, I think a new debate on the issue of whether to get back to the physical medium or continue with the online medium should happen. Also, the issue of implementation of the New Education Policy needs to be taken seriously.

I think an open education system needs to be promoted, digital infrastructure must be strengthened, Teacher- Guardian training concerning online education must be done.

Keeping all these points in mind a New Post-Covid Education policy must be formulated with a special focus on the implementation of the New Education Policy, 2020.

Q. Can you please tell our readers something about the famous National Geography documentary Mega Icons?

Although, I have been working on brain analysis for the last 17 years and it was also part of my study during my Post-Doc in AIIMS but this study started around 2006-07 when we analyzed the brain of recently joined IAS officers. Then later we also analyzed the brains of the greatest minds of our country like late APJ Abdul Kalam, Virat Kohli, Kiran Bedi, Kamal Hasan, etc, which was also documented by National Geography and released as “Mega Icons”.

The basic purpose of this is to analyze the brain and understand the strong points of your brain. As every individual has some inborn talent and some talents that he acquires by working on it, what we do is get in the information of our inborn talents so that we can make it stronger by working on it and It can be very beneficial while choosing our career.

Q. Lastly, What suggestion would you give to our young readers concerning these pandemic times when all our Universities are working online?

Firstly, I want to tell them that they must learn ways to adapt to change and try to look for opportunities that are generating and that can only be done by looking at things positively. Secondly, I think we have a habit of blaming the system or the environment that is around us for our failures but the first step should be is to realize the individual responsibility and work ourselves to make our country the best in the world.

We have been constantly producing one of the best minds in the world and our people have been leading the world in most of the areas including business, education, space, etc. The system needs change but there is also a need to realize our capability and responsibility towards our country and if we all work together the time is not very far when we will be leading the world.

Lastly, I would tell them to look for solutions rather than focusing on problems.


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(Onkareshwar Pandey is Founder, Editor in Chief & CEO, Indian Observer Post and former Senior Group Editor- Rashtriya Sahara (Hindi & Urdu) and also former Editor, (News), ANI. http://bit.ly/2mh7hih Email - SMS- 9910150119)


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