Fighters of the invisible front line: how RSUH volunteers help people
Sealing ventilation ducts, phoning the sick, delivering food and medicine to pensioners, unloading water-delivering trucks - all these tasks are performed by students of RSUH. They work as volunteers at hospital facilities in Moscow, prepping them to admit patients with coronavirus infection.
This is part of the mutual assistance action #МЫВМЕСТЕ, coordinated by the All-Russian Popular Front. Moreover, the students’ mentors volunteer, too. Today the students are sharing their impressions.
I was surprised at how safety-conscious they all were. They were incredibly protective of our health, although there were no coronavirus patients in this hospital and it was not dangerous there.
Alexander Mozhaev, FAD, sophomore. Worked in ГКЗ No. 51
A screen is a plastic plate with a soft layer that attaches to the forehead and protects the face.
We lined up. Igor Yuryevich talked a lot about protedtive measures and that we should constantly spray our hands with alcohol. The hospital will be reorganized to have a contaminated zone. So it was necessary to seal the ventilation in all the wards, offices, corridors. Everywhere.
We, the nine girls, were brought there by bus. They gave us a walkie-talkie. Igor Yuryevich said that if someone didn’t look at us right, we should immediately report by walkie-talkie, because, according to him, some people were strange, they could spit, bite, or do something else.
They gave us paper and scotch tape and we set about sealing the ventilation with them. Every 30 minutes there was a break to spray our hands with alcohol, and every hour we went outside. Masks had to be changed every hour. So we worked for a long time, it took about seven hours for 4 floors.
Some journalist scurried about there, who insistently asked us to sing. Like to show fighting spirit, show us how fun and good everything was. But, of course, nobody sang.
Then they fed us, brought us back to headquarters, and we headed home.
I was invited to work more calling the relatives of patients with coronavirus. I said I would think it over, and the next day they automatically added me to the lists and said that I would have to do this not from home, but from the hospital, which already had coronavirus patients.
I act purely on enthusiasm, but the feeling is quite pleasant. It’s mostly men that work there, some very caring in the fatherly way.
Of course, I have personal motives for doing this. It is vital for me that the borders open, because my parents live in Kyrgyzstan, and my boyfriend is in Ukraine. We planned that he would come to Moscow in the summer, and together we would go to Kyrgyzstan. I haven’t seen my mother for a year, and him for six months, and it’s very difficult for me to sit at home and do nothing.
I was pleased to have contributed to the fight against the pandemic, I felt involved in a global effort.
Ekaterina Sereda, FAD, junior. Also worked in ГКЗ No. 51
It turned out that sealing ventilation ducts was very exciting! We were divided into pairs and given stepladders. It was something, having to balance on the stepladder, especially where the surface was uneven. In the end, they just gave us a simple ladder that we had to lean it against to the wall. The work was sweaty, especially because we had screens on, and they mist a lot from the inside.
We were told that the screens weren’t against the virus, but more against dust and dirt. But when we arrive at the hospital, there was a feeling that it would be necessary to take off everything and burn it when we were done. Everyone was worried about whether they had patients there or not. We were assured that there were none, that they would be brought only next week.
I was pleased to have contributed to the fight against the pandemic, I felt involved in a global effort. You sit in front of the TV and see what kind of chaos is happening in the world, and you can’t even do anything. In Italy, in Spain ... And when an opportunity to help arose in Russia, I took it. Unfortunately, I am not a medic and not a guy, they are now more in demand.
RSUH student, volunteer Ekaterina Sereda in full uniform.
The conditions were comfortable, we were given masks and a water cooler, they fed us lunch with pastries.
Victoria Rtishcheva, Faculty of Journalism, freshman. Worked in HOSPITAL No. 64
My task was to call people from the database with confirmed or unconfirmed coronavirus. At first they offered us an opportunity to call from home, then they said it was necessary to do it from the hospital - apparently, that calls had to come from official lines. I arrived, the coordinator met us, we were taken to a building with a conference room, given scripts of conversations where it was written what we were to say. It was necessary to reach about 70 people, but many did not pick up the phone. It was necessary to ask the respondents with whom they had contacted in the last two weeks, whether they had gone abroad the last month, with whom they lived in the apartment, and whether the social worker came to them. What they asked us the most was “Is my coronavirus confirmed?”, But we could not answer it, of course.
The attitude from the medical staff was very friendly.
I decided to do this because I wanted to help the healthcare system. It is very important to control people who can be carriers of the virus to prevent its spread. As a future journalist, it was a good experience for me, and I may share it in the student media.
Photo: newspaper Moskva. Za Kaluzhskoy Zastavoy. Victoria Rtishcheva works in HOSPITAL No. 64.
We’d been doing this for two days. We wanted to continue, but my husband and I are now quarantined, so they said that another team would work for two weeks, and we asked to monitor our well-being.
Ekaterina Ushakova, Institute of Psychology, senior. Helped deliver medicine and groceries to pensioners
I applied when I read about it in a group of the Volunteer Center of RSUH. We underwent safety training, measured our temperature and were given individual protective kits. My husband and I decided to do it together. Enthusiasm made us take three applications, despite the fact that it was evening. And it took us five hours! Everything was in the same area, but it was necessary to travel long distances, on trolleybuses ... Plus, many pharmacies were out of the pills we needed, so we had to look elsewhere.
You are basically given a list, and make purchases from it and deliver them to senior citizens. If something is absent, you can call and find out if it can be replaced with something else. The info they write there is as detailed as possible - black grain bread, they can even indicate the brand. If compromises were possible with food, with medicine it was much more difficult: there was a case when an old guy had the last pill, and in the morning there was nothing left to take. He urgently needed to find this medicine, but the nearest pharmacies were all out. We called all the district pharmacies, and eventually found the medicine, the pharmacists themselves helped us.
For the elderly, as for us, this was new experience. We were given the rules: that we did not have the right to enter the apartment, accept gifts or tips, and we had to wear gloves. And pensioners were also aware of all this. Everyone was very grateful to us, and this is important.
The organizers warned that these events were not putting us in contact with infected patients, because they cannot expose students to this danger.
Maxim Balashov, Head of the Department of Student Relations. Worked in HOSPITAL No. 10, Nekrasovka
Volunteers are given digital passes that must be shown if they are stopped by the police. The validity of passes is now extended until May 11. To order a pass, you need to sign up through an electronic Google form. I looked at the dates of birth to see if I was going to be the oldest guy there. It turned out there were people born in the 90s and 80s. I worked in a hospital loading water, and in our group there was a man of about 50 years old, a representative of some kind of environmental movement.
Initially, RSUH was contacted by All-Russian Popular Front for volunteers to participate in their events. The Front has connections with hospitals, and they collect data on the need for assistance in simple types of work available to students. We passed the information on to the Volunteer Center, placed an advertisement in the student media. The organizers immediately warned that these events were not directly related to contact with patients, because they could not expose students to this danger, but were connected with the preparation of medical institutions for patient admittance, etc.
There were no student quotas, but many responded. True, the bulk of the work takes place on weekdays, when students have classes. So I thought that I could also be of some use. Thanks to call forwarding, I can solve many issues remotely, so I decided to spend part of my free time helping people.
I want to note that the level of organization is very good. Previously, it seemed to me that if it is “volunteering”, then you’d have to do everything yourself. But everything was organized very well. The gathering took place at the main headquarters on Mosfilmovskaya. In the early morning everyone arrives and is distributed into groups, instructed on how to behave and given a uniform. Minibuses transport everyone to the working areas.
We were shown a basement in which to unload water. The truck was small, 2.5 tons of water, the five of us unloaded it fairly quickly, in two hours. The hands were constantly sanitized with alcohol solution. If the work is longer, food is also provided.
In recent days, volunteer activity has gone down. Now the tasks are mainly given for students of medical universities, juniors and up, to replace doctors who were transferred to the COVID wards. But I am glad that I was able to work together with our students. I want to express my sincere gratitude to them from the whole team of RSUH!