When she was 19, M Ajanya, a student of nursing in north Kerala contracted the dreaded Nipah viral disease, which has a mortality rate of 80%. Ajanya was on a ventilator for a week but didn’t give up; nor did her doctors. She recovered.
Now 21, Ajanya, who graduated this year from the Government Nursing College in Kozhikode with a graduate degree in GNM (general nursing and midwifery), is waiting for a job. “I am keen to work in a Covid hospital,” she says. Her tryst with Nipah, Ajanya says, has only made her love her chosen profession even more. “Many prayed for my life (when I was in hospital) and it is time for me to pay back.”
The daughter of a farm labourer and an anganwadi worker, Ajanya contracted Nipah while interning at the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital in 2018. “I was in the ICU (intensive care unit) looking after my patients as part of my training. On May 18, 2018, I developed high fever and other ailments and got admitted at the same ward. Two days later I lost consciousness. I was later told Lini Puthussery was in the same ward,” she said.
Puthussery, also a nurse, succumbed to the virus later. Last year the state government instituted an award in her memory; the World Health Organization too lauded her dedication.
“I consider nursing one of the noblest professions in the world. Becoming a nurse was my childhood dream. I feel I am nearer to my dream. I have applied to several places (for a job) I am waiting for the call. As a beginner, it is time for me to take challenges head on. I would love to treat Covid patients,” Ajanya says, adding that she is still in touch with some of the nurses and doctors who treated her.
She was one of the two survivors of Nipah in 2019, from a total of 19 people infected with the deadly virus. The district medical officer Dr V Jayasree remembers Ajanya and the challenge her illness posed. “A head nurse stayed at the hospital for a week keeping an eye on her every minute. It’s great that she is ready to take up the profession.” Jayashree adds that the fight with Nipah has steeled medical professionals in north Kerala.
With no known treatment, and completely blank about the source of the infection, health care workers fought back valiantly.
Ajanya thinks health care workers will eventually get the better of Covid-19 too. “Many frontline warriors have fallen prey to the monstrous virus; their sacrifice has inspired people like me and I am sure we will tame it soon.”