We tend to think it can’t happen to us. Whether it is a lottery win or a disease, we like to believe it can’t be us. We can’t get so lucky or be struck with such misfortune! I thought so too until this happened.
COVID-19 is an interesting sort of disease. It has a decent recovery rate if you are fortunate (or just plain young) to not have any comorbidities (diabetes, heart-related problems, etc.) while threatening with its rapidly spreading tendency. The spread can be contained with social distancing measures/lockdowns/quarantines but it comes at the cost of livelihoods if not lives. A country can stave off an impending health crisis only to find itself in choking economic distress and vice-versa. What’s the right way? We are all trying to figure out.
The disease has no cure as yet, but its symptoms can be treated. It is indeed interesting.
This is what happened.
Last Friday (19th June), I woke up with body aches and almost ten hours of sleep. Both quite unusual for me. I didn’t think much about it. ‘Much needed rest’, I thought to myself. I didn’t feel like doing anything. Throughout the day, I carried this slowness with me. I attributed it to oversleeping which often causes one to feel lethargic. As the meandering day narrowed towards night, I was planning on making the next day ‘count’. It wasn’t going to be. After dinner, my body welcomed fever unwelcomingly. I popped a Paracetamol and slept for another ten hours.
The next day, I woke up with a mild fever. Not the severe type. I went about my day with work. Saturday evening means one amazing TMCC session for me. That evening, however, I opted out of the session midway. The reason? Well, I just couldn’t sit in my chair. The fatigue level had shot through the roof. The body temperature followed suit.
I panicked a bit. The fever was different. Coming from somebody who intakes antibiotics to fight fever at least two times in a good year, you can take my word for that- the fever was nothing like I had experienced before- the fatigue levels unusually high, lack of taste in my tongue, a constant body temperature which was neither too high like in Malaria nor it was a yo-yo with temperature, oscillating between too high and normal, as it is in case of a routine viral fever.
After talking it out with my mom, we went to KIMS (a hospital here at Patia).
The hospital is a designated COVID medical care destination. A fever clinic (for COVID-19) has been set up there. We were directed to go there. From a distance, I was asked my reasons for showing up late at night by a doctor in a strange outfit (Read PPE). I narrated what was happening with me. He prescribed me antibiotics and told me to relax. I was a little uncomfortable with his unperturbed stoic attitude.
Doctors very often make me feel that way. I am sure you must have noticed this some time as well. They are so cool about things that are deadly that it sort of puts you off. I like doctors who explain stuff and are empathetic. I am not making any value judgments here. But yes, a little bit of niceness is all I ask of a doctor. It depresses the hell out of me that I don’t get that very often.
But hey, they save lives and they are indeed doing the most difficult job at the moment with grace and kindness. So, please ignore my peeve. Doctors are no less than Gods.
I asked the doctor politely if I should get a COVID-testing done. He said ‘no’. I was about to say something when the nurse who also wore that alien outfit handed me the prescription, and asked me to leave. I obeyed although I had tons of doubts in my mind.
Here’s the thing about COVID- we don’t know it that well. Scientifically speaking, the medical fraternity is still getting a hang of the virus. The epidemiologists with their predictions are all over the place. The governments around the world are following different strategies (India closed down, the US faked standing tall and then embraced lockdown, the UK went down the herd-immunity way only to realize later they are caught up in a bad mess). The changes in WHO’s guidelines are more frequent than the versions of the truth on social media about almost every other incident. The corporate world is surviving by cutting off survival for many. The commentariat is happy speculating and the common man is clueless exercising ‘Ignorance is bliss’. Not the common man’s fault. What can he do when the whole system is in complex chaos!
About Indians, I think we were far more serious when the numbers were humble than now when morbidly giant stats are staring at us. The worst part is- nobody knows a definite ‘Plan of Action’.
The safest way, of course, is to have testing done whenever you show any symptoms. But it isn’t that easy either. We have only so many testing kits and therefore the ones who show the most severe symptoms are deemed eligible for testing.
You know the world is fucked up when there’s an eligibility criterion for getting testing done.
God forbid. What will you do in case it happens to your loved ones? You don’t know. I didn’t know too. That night, I decided to quarantine myself in my room and asked my family to mark my utensils. Other preventive measures had to be taken. With two grandparents and one fifty-year-old superwoman with diabetes, I couldn’t take any chances.
As the doctor had advised I was on a combination of Azithromycin-500 (which has a history of not working for me. Don’t know why! Augmentin 625 works wonders though.) and paracetamol. I was feeling weaker than my weakest. I was finding it difficult to sit. A fun fact- I tried reading ‘A murder is announced’ by Agatha Christie and I could barely go past the tenth page. The ten pages seemed more like five hundred. I gave up on the idea of squeezing something productive. I tried sleeping early. It was futile.
I faced all sorts of demons that night. High fever was the starting point. The night then surfed through different waves. No taste in my mouth. I started to face difficulty in breathing. The chest felt heavy like it was nursing a broken heart. My worst fears were gripping me tight- what if I was the cause of somebody else’s death? Frankly, I knew or at least I thought that I would be okay. But the dark thoughts paralyzed me. I couldn’t see my family members being infected. I continuously had flashes of grim images playing in front of my head’s inner eyes. They teased me to do something about it. I tried, I tried hard to not think. But you cannot not think about your loved ones. What if they faced misfortune because of me? I fell asleep well after the dawn had taken over the night’s fading darkness. I dreamed of dead people.
The next day, I went to KIMS again. This time I was determined to get my testing done. At first, the doctor wasn’t available. I must have waited for a little over two hours when a slim looking yellow alien entered slowly and plonked himself in a comfortable chair. I grew uncomfortable.
‘Sir, ……’, I told him all.
He suggested a change in antibiotics and guess what was it? Augmentin 625. This gentleman was a nice chap. Seeing my hopeless and weak disposition, he asked me if I was okay. I politely replied ‘I am afraid the symptoms are indicating COVID 19.’
‘Yes, it might be.’
That was it. I requested him for a test. He acquiesced.
After what seemed like an eternity of bureaucratic paperwork and ‘You go to X, X sends to Y, Y to Z’, my testing was done. It cost me 4500 INR. I would get my result in 48 hours, I was told.
The next two days were almost identical. Huddled up in my bed, I watched random YouTube videos and read up obsessively about the disease. I came across this, a good place for all general information. I was perennially tired. Going to the washroom felt like a herculean task. My body somehow chugged on. My mind kept wiping out dark possibilities. It was a constant battle. I watched Flying Beast videos and tried imagining a nice life for myself. It didn’t seem possible at the moment. The only image of reality I could conjure up in my imagination was what the process was going to be like once I saw the ‘positive’ starched on the white of my life-deciding report. I was visibly scared. It felt like I was part of a bad dream. Meanwhile, the symptoms remained the same. Neither better nor worse. The fatigue levels though were only inching upwards.
The result day. I just prayed I didn’t appear on TV. I knew even an oblique reference could stigmatize me in the society I live in. The govt officials approaching my home in neatly tucked uniforms was the movie I watched over and over again. In the movie, I saw I was being taken away to some weird treatment centre. I didn’t want that.
I dialled up KIMS helpline number to enquire about my report. The answer was in the affirmative (For the report. Not the report findings). They needed a minute to locate the report. Here, I took a deep breath. It didn’t help.
‘Yes sir. You there? The report…’.
It was a negative (You can find the report here). The relief was nothing like I had tasted before. It was as precious to me, given the circumstances I was in, as getting an admit into IIM-A. It was unadulterated relief.
Afterwards, I read up a bit on how a false negative was still in the fray. I had to wait for another 24 hours before I started to recover. Friday showed signs of clear improvement. After a couple of days of recovery, I feel a lot better today. God’s been kind.
What had happened to me then? It is again my hunch. I probably had viral fever. The change in antibiotics worked for me.
What did this entire process teach me?
The COVID-19 situation is worsening in India. We have to be extremely careful.
Some places have already started to run out of beds, or have beds available at exorbitantly high prices. From the world’s current best Tennis player to the top leaders of countries, from cricketers to the common man, the virus doesn’t discriminate anybody. You realize how easy it is to catch the infection? Hence, please stay safe. A few months more and we can all have a collective sigh of relief.
I would like to emphasize the following points:
- It CAN happen to us. Let us be careful.
- Please sanitize in abundance. This platitude can save us.
- Please don’t go out unless required.
- Please go for a test (agreed, it will be difficult to get the approval) if you show relevant symptoms.
- Keep reminding yourself – It’s just a matter of 7-8 months more.
- Please go through this.
- Let’s be kind to each other.
I hope you’re doing well. Stay safe.
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