Barun Badal prayed every morning that his wife, a nurse at BridgePoint Hospital in Washington, would not fall ill with COVID-19.
But one night in early April, Sujata Madhikarmi Badal felt feverish and achy. Her heart sank at the telltale signs. How would she isolate from her husband and 10-year-old son in their two-bedroom apartment in Glen Burnie? How long would she be away from the job she loves?
“I was scared. I was crying all the time,” she said. A few days later, a test confirmed she had coronavirus.
Sujata Badal talks about those uneasy days from the perspective of one who has recovered from COVID-19 and rejoined the fight against the virus. She’s back to work, calling on her own experience to bring comfort to those swept up in the pandemic.
“Helping is a good thing,” she said. “That is the moral of our profession.”
Badal, 31, said she’s always been an upbeat person, drawn to caring for others. That’s why she became a nurse in Nepal in 2008 and why she studied for her American license after she moved to the U.S. with her son, Aashreya, in 2016. They joined Barun, who’d immigrated a few years earlier.
She tried to retain her customary spirit as she spent two weeks cooped up alone in one bedroom, relying on her husband to pass meals through the door.
“He did a good job,” she said, laughing.
Every time she used the apartment’s lone bathroom, she had to scrub it down. Her son could not sleep, keeping a restless eye on his mother via a camera the family had set up in her room.
“It was really difficult to manage,” Barun Badal said. “But she would always be like, ‘I’ve got to think positive. I’ve got to stay positive and build my immunity.’ Because she’s always thinking about our son and taking care of her family and her patients.”
Sujata Badal felt relieved that neither her husband nor son developed symptoms. She registered her last fever eight days after she first felt sick.
The day after she was cleared by Anne Arundel County health officials, she wanted to get back to work. She missed interacting with patients, whom she frequently describes as “like family.” And now, she had an optimistic story to tell. She’d survived this modern scourge. So could they.
She returned to her thrice-weekly surgical-unit shifts on April 25 and has cared for COVID-19 patients. Every day, she called a co-worker who’d started at BridgePoint the same week as her and had also tested positive for the virus.
“She was panicked,” Badal said. “She has two kids, like the same situation as me.
"I just tried to give her positive thinking. Like, ‘You can get rid of this.’”
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