A day at the dengue ward

Published October 18, 2015
Doctors and nurses are working around the clock to tend to hundreds of dengue patients at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital. The hospital is currently full up to to its capacity and further patients diagnosed with Dengue are sent to the District headquarters hospital in Rawalpindi. ─ Photo by author
Doctors and nurses are working around the clock to tend to hundreds of dengue patients at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital. The hospital is currently full up to to its capacity and further patients diagnosed with Dengue are sent to the District headquarters hospital in Rawalpindi. ─ Photo by author
The needle of intravenous drip has caused Mehreen's vein to collapse. Her mother has called a nurse to change the spot while her uncle comforts Mehreen's hand. ─ Photo by author
The needle of intravenous drip has caused Mehreen's vein to collapse. Her mother has called a nurse to change the spot while her uncle comforts Mehreen's hand. ─ Photo by author
Fazal Noor is 55 year old and is brought to the hospital emergency by her family. She has high fever and pains in her body and is unable to walk. Her daughter Kiran sits by her side as they wait for her dengue test results. ─ Photo by author
Fazal Noor is 55 year old and is brought to the hospital emergency by her family. She has high fever and pains in her body and is unable to walk. Her daughter Kiran sits by her side as they wait for her dengue test results. ─ Photo by author
"She fainted and we carried her in our arms and rushed to the hospital. I can't see my mother in pain. We are waiting for our turn since 3 hours now. I'm fearing if she will be able to make it through this." Says Kiran. ─ Photo by author
"She fainted and we carried her in our arms and rushed to the hospital. I can't see my mother in pain. We are waiting for our turn since 3 hours now. I'm fearing if she will be able to make it through this." Says Kiran. ─ Photo by author

It is early in the morning, but already, there is a sense of chaos at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital in Rawalpindi. With dengue fever spreading, the hospital has set up a counter to facilitate incoming patients suffering from this dangerous and – if left untreated or misdiagnosed – potentially fatal disease.

Patients referred for dengue tests here are first registered at this desk. From there, they move to a nursing station where their blood pressure is checked. Next comes a trip to the hospital’s laboratory for a complete blood count (CBC) test. The lab is hot and crowded; there is only room for four people, including the nurse and the lab technician.

Abdullah is 3 months old and is diagnosed with dengue. His mother comforts him as he burns in high fever. "He is the youngest child with dengue here and the doctor seem very worried for him. He's so tiny and has fever since one week." says his mother, Saadia. ─ Photo by author
Abdullah is 3 months old and is diagnosed with dengue. His mother comforts him as he burns in high fever. "He is the youngest child with dengue here and the doctor seem very worried for him. He's so tiny and has fever since one week." says his mother, Saadia. ─ Photo by author

Patients then take their tests to the next room where a doctor determines if they need to be admitted. If the doctor deems it necessary, patients must make their way to the admissions desk where they are allocated a bed in the increasingly crowded dengue ward.

Mehreen is kept in the ward for critical dengue patients as her platelet count is not improving. "I have body aches. I feel weak. Today was my midterm exam at school and I missed it. I miss my school friends." says Mehreen. ─ Photo by author
Mehreen is kept in the ward for critical dengue patients as her platelet count is not improving. "I have body aches. I feel weak. Today was my midterm exam at school and I missed it. I miss my school friends." says Mehreen. ─ Photo by author

Almost 100 patients are taken in every day and the hospital has allocated 172 beds for dengue patients. Outside the ward, new patients argue with the nursing staff when they are told the hospital has run out of beds. These patients are referred to the District Headquarters Hospital.

A nurse sends blood sample to the technician at the lab for a complete blood count (CBC) test. ─ Photo by author
A nurse sends blood sample to the technician at the lab for a complete blood count (CBC) test. ─ Photo by author

There are patients here of all ages, ranging from a three-month-old baby to the elderly in their 70s. The hospital staff is obviously trying their best to satisfy each patient and their families.

A nurse takes Ali Raza's blood sample for for testing at the lab setup at the dengue center inside Benazir Bhutto hospital. The tests results are instantly provided to the patients. The hospital flags patients who are probable cases of dengue and are immediately admitted to the hospital. ─ Photo by author
A nurse takes Ali Raza's blood sample for for testing at the lab setup at the dengue center inside Benazir Bhutto hospital. The tests results are instantly provided to the patients. The hospital flags patients who are probable cases of dengue and are immediately admitted to the hospital. ─ Photo by author

Many of the patients awaiting treatment displayed a limited knowledge of dengue fever and did not seem to know how they could protect themselves. Some of those who knew better were too poor to afford preventive measures.

10 year old Saad smiles as his mother caresses him with joy as he is being discharged by the doctor. After two months and various tests and misdiagnosis Saad's parents found out he has dengue. "He is my only child and I felt so helpless when we could not find out what was wrong with him. It feels like I have gotten my world back together now that I'm taking him home and he's healthy." says Mrs. Riaz. ─ Photo by author
10 year old Saad smiles as his mother caresses him with joy as he is being discharged by the doctor. After two months and various tests and misdiagnosis Saad's parents found out he has dengue. "He is my only child and I felt so helpless when we could not find out what was wrong with him. It feels like I have gotten my world back together now that I'm taking him home and he's healthy." says Mrs. Riaz. ─ Photo by author
14 year old Ali Raza rests his head on her mothers lap as they wait to get admitted at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital in Rawalpindi. "He has fever since 10 days. We thought he will get better but his condition only got worse so today I brought him here." ─ Photo by author
14 year old Ali Raza rests his head on her mothers lap as they wait to get admitted at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital in Rawalpindi. "He has fever since 10 days. We thought he will get better but his condition only got worse so today I brought him here." ─ Photo by author

Many wait until the very last minute to seek medical attention, often because they are poor and cannot afford to be away from their work. But as time passes and loved ones get sicker, they are left with no other choice.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2015

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