A 26-year-old man, who had lost his job in Gurgaon near Delhi, was one of the first coronavirus patients last month at the Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH) at Dibrugarh, 450 km east of Guwahati. When he was admitted at the hospital, his family could not send him much help due to the discrimination they were facing at their village.
The medical staff at the AMCH, the oldest hospital and medical college in northeast India, offered the man - upset at the loss of job and getting coronavirus infection - more than just treatment. They got him a new pair of clothes; this became a tradition at the hospital in the following weeks.
Assam witnessed a jump in the number of cases last month when the interstate movement of buses and special trains were allowed as the lockdown was eased to revive the economy. The state has logged over 1,500 patients so far; four deaths linked to the illness.
"The 26-year-old reached the hospital literally in one pair of clothes. He could not take anything from his house. He was stable and asymptomatic... but disturbed. He had lost this job in Gurgaon as a delivery agent for a private company," recalled Dr Ajanta Hazarika, the Additional Superintendent of AMC and in-charge of the COVID-19 hospital.
"He somehow managed to board a Shramik train to Assam. He was quarantined on reaching the state after he tested positive. His family even could not give him clothes since the villagers had ostracized them. Looking at his state of mind, we thought he might feel better on getting a new pair of clothes."
Led by Professor HK Goswami - the AMCH principal- and Superintendent Dr IM Sutia, a team of doctors, nurses, paramedics are not only taking care of the COVID-19 patients, they are also buying them essentials such as clothes, mobile chargers or any other thing they may need.
"Most of these people are migrant workers from metro cities. They did all odd jobs and were pushed into great suffering after the lockdown (in March). So, they took the very first Shramik train to Assam to come back," Dr Hazarika explained.
"Initially, we came across many of them who were not even carrying a change of pair of clothes. Giving them older clothes would have reduced their morale. We doctors are trying to buy them whatever is essential that they should have carried from home. When such gestures bring a smile on their faces, it helps us communicate better. We want to make them feel at home" Dr Hazarika added.
The youngest coronavirus patient the team has taken care of is a one-year-old, who reciprocated well on getting a toy.