Dr. Kamna Kakkar, an Anaesthesiologist recently shot to limelight when she shared her experience of bleeding in her PPE suit on her first day of period while attending to Covid affected patients. Taking to twitter, the doctor went on to say how her first Covid-19 ICU duty on 17 May in Rohtak will be unforgettable.
“I bled freely that day…,” she writes, “… though not out of compulsion but by choice. I belong to the privileged strata of society where I never had to think about safely managing my periods. But that day, I felt what it was like to be in the shoes of women who do not have access to sanitary napkins or tampons or clean alternatives.” She shared this post on May 21, world menstrual day and was quickly picked up by social media. She was a junior resident doctor then.
“It takes 45 minutes for us to wear the PPE in sequential steps — a process called ‘donning’. Then we follow a designated route to the Covid ICU where we work with the sickest of patients. When our shift ends, six hours later, we leave the ICU via another designated route to reach the ‘doffing’ area. ‘Doffing’, or getting out of the PPE, is another step-by-step process that also takes 45 minutes.
“In the rush and excitement to serve in the Covid ICU for the first time, I had completely forgotten that I was nearing the end of my menstrual cycle and it was time for my periods. All I could focus on was being in the midst of a pandemic and also needing to stay safe. I had completely forgotten that I had a woman’s body inside a frontline worker.
“I couldn’t risk leaving my sick patients unattended in the ICU for 45 minutes to doff plus 45 minutes to don the PPE again — a total of 1 hour 30 minutes — to just wear a sanitary napkin. Also, that would mean I would need another set of PPE, and in a pandemic, PPEs are precious and being rationed. I didn’t want to waste even one.”
So she decided to bleed freely in her PPE till the end of her shift. But while narrating her ordeal to a friend when she called her a warrior, Kamna wondered if she really was one or just another regular woman doing my job.
“Regular women menstruate while working — nothing heroic about it. However, unlike me, who bled freely by choice, if one has to menstruate without a pad or a tampon out of compulsion, it makes her a victim of social apathy.”
Just like the many women who do not have access to clean toilets or better hygiene practices and sanitary products during menstruation, the real difference between Kamna (and most of us) and these other women is the privilege of having the choice to bleed freely.
Source @drkamnakakkar on twitter