"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." This line by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has become a popular culture reference. However, for 26-year-old Balaram Vishwakarma, this line reiterated his struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vishwakarma tested positive for the virus earlier in May and underwent treatment at Dr RN Cooper Municipal General Hospital. Before being admitted to the hospital, he was quarantined at a centre at Andheri. It was during this phase he realised that he had to fight two battles: one against the virus and the other with his mind. It was the motivation behind his decision to counsel COVID-19 patients after he left the hospital and defeated the dreaded virus.
Vishwakarma, an animation writer by profession, pays a visit to a CCC2 quarantine facility once every weekend, where he counsels patients. "In quarantine centres, every patient is literally isolated. So, most of them become impatient and lose hope in life, which is quite natural considering all the negativity going around," Vishwakarma told the Free Press Journal.
Vishwakarma tries his best to keep patients motivated. “At the same time, I rationally explain to them why the doctors are doing what they are doing and convince them to be confident and have their faith in themselves," he added.
The fact that he has battled the disease and swung back into his regular life has given patients immense hope. "The very first thing I tell the patients when I enter the facility is that I am not anyone from the civic body," he asserted.
Vishwakarma, on his visit, gets a list of patients from the medical officer in charge. Checking their name and age, he speaks with them and counsels them on the basis of priority. He approaches those who are feeling more vulnerable first and then takes it forward from there.
Apart from his visiting hours, he also rushes to quarantine facilities a number of times, often when doctors and social workers approach him stating that a patient is feeling vulnerable and needs someone to speak with. "Often social workers and doctors get in touch with me, asking if I could visit. I have rushed to the centre, spoken with patients and made them feel better," recalls the 26-year-old.
Apart from counselling, Vishwakarma also manages a Facebook meme page, Andheri West Shit Posting, through which he has been running awareness drives to keep Mumbaikars updated on the ongoing pandemic. Through his posts and memes, he engages social media users, making them aware about the disease and often responds to them when they reach out to him. "There are various rumours being spread, not just about the disease, but also about healthcare facilities and doctors. My Facebook page has more than 60,000 followers and I am using this platform to disseminate correct information, guide people and kill the paranoia," stated the COVID-19 survivor.