Dr Vishakha Shivdasani
Dr Vishakha Shivdasani

Mumbai: A few weeks ago global Scientists, epidemiologists and the international media were at pains to explain India’s mysteriously sharp decline in Covid 19 cases and deaths after September. Even though there has been a surge since mid-Feb, with an overall death rate of 112 per million people, we can confidently claim that we have fared far better than Europe and North America during this Pandemic.

One can attribute this to the heat, the robust immunity, the relatively younger population etc but let’s not forget very crucial elements which are, a dedicated workforce on the ground at State and Municipality levels and excellent doctors and health care workers, many of who are women. This should come as no surprise. One reads about women being the unsung heroes during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that claimed 50 million lives. They shouldered the burden of the pandemic because the virus disproportionately affected young men. Although the doctors treating the outbreak back then were almost universally male, it was women as nurses who became the primary caregivers.

On international women’s day we caught up with dynamic women Covid warriors from Mumbai South’s A-ward which covers Colaba, Churchgate and Navy Nagar, who were instrumental in containing the spread in that area.

This is just a small microcosm, but these women are representative of the indomitable spirit of our covid sheroes all over the country, who sacrificed much to ensure a better outcome for India.

Dr Vishakha Shivdasani

Based in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai, this dynamic young family physician took her experience and knowledge in reversing Chronic lifestyle diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and put it to use in treating her Covid patients and the long haulers who suffered multiple health issues even after testing negative, with much success. Not only did she attend to her patients non-stop over the last year, but she also harnessed the insights she acquired and authored a book which was released two weeks ago called ‘Covid and Post Covid Recovery - Dr Vee’s 6 – point plan’

How did it feel to go to your clinic during lockdown?

Going to clinic was difficult. Wearing a PPP or an N95 and visor and gloves were very uncomfortable. While you want to take care of your patients you also have that fear about going home to your loved ones. I live with my father so I was very scared that I might be a carrier of the virus myself, but what had to be done had to be done.

The first month when I was at the clinic I was without staff as they had returned to their villages and that was very challenging. I didn’t know who was walking into the clinic, I couldn’t monitor it and that was super scary. Later on everyone with fever was told to do teleconsults. I would treat Covid patients and regular patients also. Malaria and dengue don’t disappear just because there’s covid. It was a gruelling 12 months as I wrote the book as well. I haven’t worked this hard even in med school.

Women's Day 2021: Meet Covid Sheroes of Mumbai - Dr Vishakha Shivdasani helped patients with comorbidities to get back on their feet

How did your experience in reversing lifestyle ailments help you in treating your covid patients?

My area of interest is reversing lifestyle diseases like type two diabetes obesity etc – they are the same comorbidities, which had the worst clinical outcomes with covid 19, even fatalities. All of them had a common denominator of inflammation. And it was the inflammation that was killing these people. To reduce the disease, we reduce inflammation. So I extrapolated. If that’s how we reverse disease it should also expedite recovery for covid 19 because the basis is the same – inflammation. So I developed a plan slowly, surely. I put in a lot of science and reading. When does a cytokine storm happen, what day? What supplements to take? What other stuff reduces inflammation besides food? So the patients I treated even with huge comorbidities started getting very good clinical outcomes and did not land up with complications.

How did the book come about?

This patient who was a post Covid long hauler approached me saying. “I am not the same, I have brain fog, exercise intolerance, hair fall. Survival is not the same as recovery. I haven’t recovered”. I prescribed her supplements, giving her the 6-point plan I had devised. She started feeling better in 48 hours. She then wrote on my instagram saying ‘thank you for your post covid plan, I have never felt this good’. Harper Collins picked up on that comment and approached me. So I decided halfway through covid, In the middle of being swamped with work that I would write a book.

What is the psychological fallout of this pandemic for doctors, especially women doctors?

I started manifesting a lot of symptoms. I started getting palpitations.

You get attached to the patients. Wondering how the outcome will be.

Being a woman in this pandemic is a double -edged sword. Empathy and compassion comes naturally to a woman. In that way we trump over men. That being said I used to go to sleep with that baggage. Is this patient going to be ok? Did I do the right thing? Should I have admitted them earlier? Men tend to compartmentalize. I took it personally and I got very emotionally involved.

What’s your advice to maximize the outcome of the vaccine?

As I have elaborated in my book, there are different lifestyle measures that improve the efficacy of the vaccine and antibody production. The number of hours you sleep, taking supplements like protein and zinc, stop smoking, reduce your alcohol consumption, take certain probiotics. All vaccines work on the same premise – the premise of antibodies. The same logic will be extended to the covid vaccine.

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