A day in the life of 'Swab Man of Jalna' amid the COVID-19 lockdown…

Khevna Pandit
Thursday, 7 May 2020

Why Deepak Bhale travelled 20,000 kilometres amidst the lockdown to deliver swab samples of suspected COVID-19 patients.

For Deepak Bhale, an assistant at the Civil Hospital in Jalna, leaving behind his family of five and travelling to Pune has become a regular activity amidst the coronavirus lockdown.  

"Even when my children were burning with fever, I had to leave and take the swab samples to Pune," he tells Sakal Times. Bhale, who is recognised as the 'Swab Man of Jalna', is single-handedly responsible for delivering the samples from his district to Pune for the COVID-19 tests.

"Earlier, I used to work inside the operation theatre," he says. "However, after the first case in Maharashtra broke out on the 12th of March, I began collecting samples of swabs. And in the first week of April, I started delivering them to Vaidya Mahavidyalaya hospital in Aurangabad," he adds. 

Bhale travelled 20,000 kilometres during the first lockdown, and he still believes that it is his duty to make a difference during these trying times. "It is my courage that has enabled me to make this journey, because I know if I do this, I'd be doing a good deed," he tells us.

His efforts were paid off when the last active case in Jalna tested negative. "We took the fourth test just to be sure, and it came back negative. Jalna was finally free of COVID-19," he replies with a smile. 

However, he also mentions how shuttling back and forth between the two cities would not have been possible without his family's tremendous support. "After I'd deliver the samples safely, my wife and family would cheer for me," he says. "They would always build me up by telling me 'You're doing a good deed, and by the grace of God, coronavirus will be gone soon,'" he adds.

Keeping his positivity and hope intact, Bhale wishes to continue taking the swabs until the outbreak has passed. "This is what I was born to do. I will continue taking swabs till the end," he says. "The work I have taken up during this pandemic has changed my life, and I am convinced that it is for good," he declares.

However, in between the interview, Bhale gets an alarming call that causes him to furrow his brows out of anxiousness. From the 11 samples that were delivered for testing a couple of days ago, one tested positive -- putting Jalna back into the orange zone. "We were delighted some time ago, and now everyone will be tensed again," he tells us, worriedly. "This is a tough situation we're in," he adds.

Travelling on four hours of sleep, Bhale will continue to make this journey until the virus has been defeated. "I don't think about my health or my sleep. I only hope the government notices my efforts and helps me out with an increment or a bonus," he says with a smile, and we notice the same hope. 

"We're all here to serve you. My only wish is that everyone stays home and follows the lockdown, which will help us fight this virus," he concludes.

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