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DOCTORS ARE THE SOLDIERS OF THIS WARRInterview with Gayane Hovhannisyan, reanimation specialist at Izmirlian Medical Center


Q: Mrs. Hovhannisyan, you are the top female to hlld the highest position in the defense system. You were the head of the Military Medical Department of the Armed Forces. Before that, you served in Artsakh, headed the reanimation department of the Central Hospital of the Ministry of Defense. Surprisingly, without being an infectious disease specialist, you found yourself in Nork Infectious Diseases Hospital on difficult days to run the reanimation service.

A: I am a military doctor. I have already been demobilized from the armed forces, but I continue to be a military doctor with my psychology, my faith, my doctor’s conduct. There is a famous saying:  “Whenever smoke comes out, everyone runs in the opposite direction, and the military doctor runs to the smoke.”

Q: After being demobilized from the Armed Forces, you started working at the Izmirlian Center. And how did you join the ranks of doctors fighting Covid-19? In Armenia and abroad, there were infectious disease doctors who refused to work, realizing the danger. They said that they have old parents, minor children … They can be understood humanely. And you voluntarily entered the danger zone.

A: I will not say loud words now, because in reality they do not exist. Your question has one very prosaic answer. I am a doctor and I have to be where I need to be. Of course, when I received an offer from the Ministry of Health to head the reanimation department of the Nork Infectious Diseases Hospital, I could have refused, but I did not hesitate for a second.

Q: And your family? You have minor children.

A: My husband was worried, but he didn’t resist. He is a doctor and knows what a professional duty is. We overcome all difficulties together.

During the April war, my husband came to the Central Hospital after work and helped as much as he could. And my kids are very cold-hearted when it comes to my work. My son even said: “I would be surprised if you were left out of the fight against the virus.”

Q: I remember, in the days of the April war, and after that, how many soldiers, parents of soldiers, told us about you during my conversations with them, described the devotion and love with which you took care of wounded soldiers, with what dedication you fought for their lives. One of the boys remembered with tears in his eyes how happy you were, how you cried when he came out of a coma … Mrs. Hovhannisyan, was it difficult during the April war or now?

A: Now it is more difficult for doctors. Because now psychological stress joins physical activity. If you come in contact with patients infected with the coronavirus, you must be completely disconnected from family and relatives to protect them from infection. There are many medical workers infected with the coronavirus in the world, unfortunately, there are also victims. In other words, there is that danger. You work with patients who are isolated, unable to enjoy the care of their relatives, and at the same time, aware of the exceptional danger of infection and in severe mental distress. The doctor is the only person who communicates with them. You enter the hospital in an outfit that immediately emphasizes the gap between you and the patient. The patient does not see your face. The only thing he can see is your eyes. And your voice is the only thing he hears. You need to be able to give him the most compassion, love, hope, will to fight. And in the intensive care unit, of course, there are serious patients. And it is natural that a group of psychologists works in the hospital.

Q: Mrs. Hovhannisyan, what has changed since the day Covid-19 first appeared in a person’s life? Did the doctors manage to recognize it to some extent and develop countermeasures?

A: To some extent, yes. We have gathered information about Covid-19, we know its symptoms, we are familiar with the developments. We know which drugs can reduce the severity of the disease. This information helps, in addition, we have our modest experience in the treatment of this disease, which results in many treated patients.

Q: Has Armenia reached the peak of the spread of the infection?

A: It is difficult to answer that question, because both the detection mechanisms are activated, and the number of infected people is growing.

Some people are terrified of the infection, others are overly optimistic. In these extremes, I, as a physician, prefer the former, because great vigilance and extreme caution will only benefit.

Q: And what is the mood of the doctors when the number of infected people has exceeded one hundred in recent days?

A: There is no panic. Our doctors have gathered all their strength and will fight to the end. This is a war in which the soldier is the doctor. He will always be at the forefront and will not back down.


By Gayane Poghosyan

Photos by Asatur Yesayants

Category: #19 (1339) 13.05.2020 - 19.05.2020, Army and Society, Spotlight