Shortly after celebrating the birth of his first born son on 13 January 2020, Vinod Kumaar from Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram made a difficult decision to cancel his paternity leave for a higher calling – joining the 12-member team responsible for patient care in the hospital's new COVID-19 ward.

As news of the virus spread across the media, Kumaar knew he had to step up and do his part. As a patient educator and trainer for Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, he is not required to be at the front line. However, he was determined to put his Masters in Critical Care Nursing and Fellowship in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to good use by volunteering his service in the new COVID-19 ward.

The COVID-19 ward took five days to set up. Meanwhile, Kumaar and his team mates underwent training on how to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), operate a respirator and conduct disinfection among others.

On its first day of operations on 16 March, the ward saw its first COVID-19 patient the same day. Since he was deployed in the ward, Kumaar has not gone home nor seen his family. Instead, he and his team have been living in isolated hostel rooms as part of infection control protocols.

"In trying times like this, you can explore within and find out what you are capable of. My last five years in nursing education was a test of my leadership skills. Working in the COVID-19 ward was an entirely different experience. And I have been able to rise to the occasion thanks to good team support. Our team comprises staff from intensive care and the wards. Everyone has been proactive in readying ourselves for our new responsibilities and familiarising ourselves with the critical procedures. The teamwork is brilliant. We had our first COVID-19 patient discharged when I was on duty. The smile on the patient's face is just priceless."