Colonel Rajesh Adhau knows a thing or two about war. He was decorated with a Sena Medal (Gallantry) for serving as regimental medical officer of the 13 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles regiment during the 1999 Kargil War. He accompanied troops into battle, as they mounted frontal assaults on to enemy held heights, saving casualties in the ‘Golden Hour’. Today, Col.Adhau is on the front lines of a different war, against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Col. Adhau commands a field hospital in New Delhi and is also the executive officer of the Narela quarantine centre, Fourteen Towers constructed by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) there have been converted for housing Covid patients. The facility has over 400 COVID-19 patients and is managed by a team of 40, including six doctors and 18 paramedics. The surgical mask, Col. Adhau says, is now a part of their uniform.
Life changed completely for Col. Adhau this April when the Director General Armed Forces Medical Services, Lieutenant General Anup Banerji, directed his field hospital to take charge of the 1,500-bedded Narela quarantine facility.
The army had already begun quarantining students returning from Wuhan in late January at a facility in Manesar, Haryana. The armed forces had begun implementing guidelines regarding leave policies, isolation, and creating ample quarantine facilities as well as procuring life-saving kits for COVID-19. Social distancing protocols were set in motion and trainings and functions that involved gatherings were put on hold.
Col. Adhau says serving in the pandemic has been deeply satisfying. “As a military health professional, I have a role to help the civilian population as well as protect my uniformed personnel and their families,” he says. He worries, though, about his family and his jawans, who stay in the same campus as the Covid patients. “In this war, the enemy is hidden. The only way to win is with self-awareness, a positive attitude and unflinching grit,” says Col. Adhau. The pandemic, he adds, has reaffirmed the importance of family and strengthened personal bonds.
Col. Adhau’s wife is a civilian doctor and knows the risks involved. So it is tough for him to convince the family that he is safe living in proximity to Covid patients. Col. Adhau has been adhering to all Covid prevention protocols. He stays in a separate room with minimum interaction with his family. As his team’s leader, he is setting an example.