National and International Issues

COVID Heroes of Pakistan Armed Forces' Medical Services

A war veteran speaks about his personal experiences of the deadly pandemic, the messiahs and their fight against it.

After testing positive for COVID-19 on April 2, 2021 I was rushed to Pakistan Emirates Military Hospital (PEMH) Rawalpindi where I was admitted urgently, soon followed by my wife after two days. I would like to share the painful experience of symptoms related to the disease and how the wonderful and caring hospital staff took care of us. It is for the sake of posterity and letting the readers know about the good work being done by medical establishments run by Pakistan Armed Forces which very few people actually know about.  

My experience as a patient has touched me so deeply that I have been inspired to write this tribute, realising that not only are they the most unique but truly the HEROES against the monstrous enemy of humanity. 
COVID-19 has brought a murderous and menacing holocaust of a size never experienced before in the history of mankind, except the Spanish Flu, affecting every nation across the globe. For once, one saw the human race coming forward to show camaraderie and unity to face the monster that has invaded every home in every nook and corner of the world. The mask, protective gloves and rest of the Coronavirus protective gear has become a part of everyday apparel and standard SOPs as a part of our lives. International air travel has reduced the global village to abodes of isolation.    
Where the scientists have been trying to get to know the origins of the virus and find a breakthrough in treatment, it has been a challenge for the brave doctors, paramedics, nursing, and logistics staff, who face the pandemic, living and working in an environment that is overflowing with the “virus of death”. They never failed to live up to the expectations of their profession, offering their lives in the process as the hospitals started overflowing with the suffering humanity, irrespective of sex and age. This type of human behavior had only been witnessed in natural calamities before. 
From the moment I got into the hospital, the practical application of terms “sacrifice” and “beyond the call of duty”, was visible all around. This is the kind of stuff I had experienced in raging tank battles during my early army life.
As soon as I was in the hospital, I could feel a sense of urgency in everyone’s demeanour and despite heavy workload, lack of staff and minor inadequacies, the staff ably led by Brig Raja Khalid Mehmood, the Nephrologist and his highly efficient team of experienced doctors, nursing staff, paramedics and the logistics staff put in their best to attend to every patient in the best professional manner. The memory of the angelic faces of the entire hospital staff will always stay fresh in my mind, reminding me of the loving care, as one can only expect from one’s family. No amount of gratitude will suffice in acknowledging their deeds.  
While I was in the hospital, I kept learning of fatalities taking place on daily basis, which in itself is so depressing for any patient. Amongst them was one of the noblest and revered souls, Lt Col Mahjabeen Riaz, wife of Lt Gen Riaz Chohan, a former Surgeon General of Pakistan Army. May Allah rest her soul in peace and in heaven. Like I and my wife, they were also hospitalized together. I have known Lt Gen Riaz Chohan since my youth.   
Not only in PEMH or other hospitals in Rawalpindi, but the medical services are also making similar super-human efforts of devotion across the country to defeat the pandemic and save as much suffering humanity as possible. It makes one wonder what makes this service so different and so dutiful, part of the answer to the success story lies in its superior and professional leadership. I got a good glimpse of the leader, Lt Gen Nigar Johar, the Surgeon General walking through the wards, fully clad in Personal Protective Equipment setting a personal example of service before self. 
From my personal experience in the wars, I know that the tradition of sacrifice and selfless devotion to duty goes back as far as history of warfare. In keeping up with those traditions, the medical services of Armed Forces have inherited a rich value system, where the medical corps teams treated the causalities on the battlefield, working in the thick of battles on the frontlines. Their services have become synonymous for giving their best, “truly beyond the call of duty”. They have written tales of valour, with their sweat and blood, laying down their lives on the frontlines with the main fighting forces during wars, the calamities, natural disasters, and peacekeeping missions with the United Nations and their crowning performance during the “War against Terror”. 
I can never forget the sentimental see-off at the PEMH, after being discharged, by Colonel Hamad Hanif, the Assistant Commandant PEMH and the Senior Medical Officer, Colonel Ayesha Ehsaan, who took so much personal care, with compassion and care in their souls.

The writer is a military historian and biographer.
E-mail: [email protected]

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