By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
Whenever Dr Chrisel Bovell-Chichester arrives home from work, her husband regularly asks, “did you wash your hands?”
Of course, the answer is always ‘yes’. But he doesn’t double-check simply because of the ‘new normal’ associated with the COVID-19 pandemic but because his wife is no ordinary doctor.
Dr Bovell-Chichester is a consultant internist at the Dr D Orlando Smith Hospital and works on the Isolation Ward, which is considered the frontline of the territory’s continued fight against COVID-19.
“Those that I see are among the sickest, the most critical, the ones that have the highest mortality rate … When you get to the stage that you have to see me, [it means your condition might be so advanced] that the chances of you walking out of the hospital is very slimmer than other patients,” she explained in an exclusive interview with BVI News recently.
Working with such a highly-contagious disease reasonably leaves a bitter taste of concern among frontline workers like Dr Bovell-Chichester.
However, the intense COVID-19 training that was provided by the BVI Health Services Authority has assisted Dr Bovell-Chichester and other medical practitioners to be more at ease while dealing with these types of patients.
“There was some fear. I think we all got to a point where we got a little more at ease, but I wouldn’t say comfortable,” she admitted.
“I think we have to recognize not just the healthcare providers [become fearful], but their families as well,” added the physician while explaining why her husband often asks whether she has sanitized.
“I know he is being endearing about it but he must have had concerns. We are human at the end of the day and self-preservation is always going to be at the forefront of our minds whether we will admit it or not.”
As it relates to the coronavirus, Dr Bovell-Chichester has provided hospitalised care to 10 persons who were either confirmed OR suspected of having COVID-19. This includes the one patient who died from the virus.
She told our news centre that it has not been easy and admits that she sometimes feel “helpless”.
She explained that medical practitioners like herself are left to act in multiple roles while treating COVID-19 cases. This is because of the high risks associated with the virus and because of their duty to limit exposing others to these patients.
“Whereas in the case of a patient with a significant heart attack who is having psychological issues managing the whole burden that it brings for them, we can involve the psychiatrists, counsellors, dieticians — all of those persons to try to approach this holistically. In COVID-19 patients, you the physician becomes all of those entities, and it can become overwhelming,” the physician said.
Having that firsthand experience treating COVID-19, Dr Bovell-Chichester is, therefore, reiterating calls for residents to take every possible precaution and follow the guidelines set out by health authorities.
The territory has a total of eight confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Of that number, there is currently only one active case remaining to date.
Editor’s note: This article represents part one of a three-part series where Dr Chrisel Bovell-Chichester gives readers insight into COVID-19 in the BVI.
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