As Delhi doctor battles COVID, his autistic children languish By Reuters

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By Sunil Kataria NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An already challenging life combining full-time work as a doctor with motherhood for two autistic children turned upside down for Meenakshi Mourya when the pandemic hit India. The country has the second-highest number of recorded COVID-19 cases in the world after the United States, and the healthcare worker shortage places a heavy burden on those out there. For nearly a month, as cases spiked last year, Mourya said she couldn’t spend time with her children as she worked long and grueling hours treating a large number of patients. “I was so emotionally depressed at the time … patients were dying in front of me,” she said, visibly moved as she spoke to Reuters in the home she shares with her husband, also a doctor, and their four and nine … years, who need help eating and find it difficult to communicate. “I didn’t want them to see me, because when they see me, they will cry.” An anesthesia specialist at Delhi’s largest public hospital, Safdarjung, Mourya’s work was instrumental during last year’s peak, when the Indian capital was registering between 7,000 and 8,000 new cases every day. At home, her children sat by the window, pining for her, she said. The lockdown meant that her special education classes were stopped as well, putting additional pressure on her caregiver. “They were restless, uncomfortable, crying all the time and waiting for me, sitting at the window … sometimes in a very confused state, not eating well,” Mourya said. With more than 11 million registered COVID-19 cases and more than 150,000 deaths, India has seen an increase in cases again since the beginning of February. In Delhi, however, the virus is now much better controlled, allowing Mourya to spend more time with her children. They still cry when she leaves for work, often clinging to the window for hours, but when she gets home, she says she can now enjoy giving them the intensive care they need. And there has been a silver lining to the family’s ordeal: while the older son has a hard time speaking, the youngest has started using words, including ‘dad’.

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