I live in what is becoming a rare situation, wherein my parents and in-laws live in the same city and I spend half my week with my parents and half the week with my in-laws. On both sides, we live in joint families.
The 3rd of September 2020 dawned with beautiful Bangalore weather. I had been in my parent’s house, spending time with my grandparents for a few days. As per our routine, I called my husband up via WhatsApp video and found that he was not well (was feeling feverish and had a headache) and my father-in-law was also not well (he was having diarrhoea). Headaches are a known entity to Prasanna (my husband) and knowing how painful they can get I decided to go back to my in-laws house to help out. The idea of covid had not even come into my mind at that point, it was still a very distant problem.
I reached home and Prasanna immediately asked me to continue wearing my mask, said as a precaution I should not remove my mask at all. On seeing me, Prasanna happily handed over charge of the house, said that he would stay in a room on the 1st floor so that I could stay in our room which is on the 2nd floor. He asked me to minimize contact with him as he was unsure what his flu-like symptoms were due to.
However I spent some time with my f-i-l (wearing my mask all the time, following social distancing norms). I realised that he had been having diarrhoea since 1st September and it had settled down today. He was only feeling lethargic and had loss of appetite – so he retired for the rest of the day. As he is a 75 year old with a successful kidney transplant, I got in touch with my brother-in-law (a radiologist in the US) and my f-i-l’s nephrologist who told us to wait and watch.
By the morning of 4th September, as both were still not feeling better, we decided to get a covid-19 test done for them. Arrangements for a home swab test were made and by 10am, both their samples had been sent. I continued to isolate and started leaving food for Prasanna and my f-i-l outside their rooms. By midnight the results came as covid positive for both of them. We spent the remainder of the night chalking out a plan of action. My parents focussed on how to keep me safe while I was in a house full of covid positive family members (there was no question of me moving out anywhere else as I could have already picked up the infection).
First thing on 5th September, we admitted my father-in-law to Manipal hospital – old airport road – being a high risk senior citizen. The BBMP officials were highly efficient in contacting Prasanna within a few hours of the test coming positive, asking about his symptoms and if he was fit enough to be home quarantined. He had to meet with a doctor and confirm the same after undergoing the necessary tests. Since we were trying to ensure that my exposure was limited, Prasanna drove himself to the hospital.
While my f-i-l was started on anti-viral treatment in the hospital, we gave Prasanna paracetamol to deal with the fever and headache. He was checking his temperature (which was around 100F), pulse and oxygen saturation (was more than 95%) at regular intervals. By 5pm I started feeling feverish with shivering – not a good place to be in at all. I told my family (my mother is a doctor) and was asked to check the temperature regularly. It was a very scary night for me – I have trouble staying alone in spaces, on top of it I wasn’t feeling well and fear of covid and its complications exploded in my mind through the hours.
By 6th morning both of us were running fever, shivering, had body aches and headaches – there was no doubt that I had also been infected. However pathologists we know said that the incubation period of the virus is atleast 5 days, so getting tested earlier than that (even if symptoms are present) is of no use. As I had come to the house on 3rd and my symptoms showed up on 5th, the most effective time to get tested would be around the 9th or 10th. The plan was to treat me as a covid positive patient until then and for Prasanna and me to quarantine ourselves in different floors of the house. My aunty – Sheela – gave me a lot of input at this point from her experience with others who have recovered from covid, and most importantly her calm demeanour helped me feel more stable too.
As both of us were not in a position to cook, my parents brought us food everyday (kept it at the door of the house). The next write up will give you more details on these arrangements.
We somehow bumbled through the next 24 hours but landed up in trouble by 7th evening. Prasanna’s splitting headache had magnified significantly, he was having stomach problems; I was having severe bodyache, chills and headache, and nausea had also started. I was finding it very difficult to even climb one flight of stairs to give Prasanna his medication, so I rang up my parents and told them that we will have to be admitted to the hospital as I was unable to care for him and our symptoms were worsening.
After consulting with my mother’s colleagues and some of our friends, it was decided that we would go to ‘A’ hospital (for confidentiality reasons, I will not be naming the hospitals). Our family friend – HB Shivakumar – was a godsend to us, as he made arrangements with the top doctors in this hospital to smoothen our way there. Unable to get an ambulance Prasanna decided to drive us there himself as he was feeling marginally better. On reaching the hospital, we were sent to the flu clinic . It was drizzling and breezy that evening – a nightmare for me when I was already feeling so cold. Not having had a covid test I was sent to the ER for a Rapid Antigen Test – which came out as negative – and then sent back to the flu clinic to get admitted. Prasanna was being allotted a room as he already had a covid positive report. In the meantime, my parents had also reached the hospital to help us with the admission process. When they noted the difficulties of us getting admission here, my mother spoke to her colleagues at hospital ‘B’ seeking admission for both of us. But because of the paucity of beds, we decided to go back home, move into the same room and take care of each other together. All of this happened around 7pm. Despite the advantage of knowing the top brass in the hospitals, this evening turned out to be very difficult. However this decision to go back home turned out to be for the best later on. Thankfully through all our chaos, my f-i-l was in hospital getting better (3rd day of admission).
That night Prasanna and I slept in our room, each shivering on our sides of the bed. When I think back on it now the image is really funny, but at that point both of us were just glad to have each other’s company and to be able to take care of each other easier.
8th September dawned as a turning point in our covid phase. My mother – who is from St. John’s Medical College and Hospital – asked her colleagues about what needs to be done from home, wherein Dr. Nandini Mullatti (her junior by 2 years) mentioned that her classmate is a covid specialist who works out of Mumbai. What endeared us to this doctor from the beginning was that he called up my mother even before she could call him and said that timely treatment is of the essence. Within 2 hours of having put out her message, Dr. Darrell DeMello , had spoken to us, understood our symptoms in detail and explained the steps that we had to take for today. His explanation was simplified for us who are not medicos – the issues related to covid19 are not because of the virus per se, but because of the body’s reaction to the virus. Inflammation and clotting are the major issues which are the underlying causes for most complications for people with covid / who have recovered from covid. He further explained that he counts day 1 as the first day of symptoms in his treatment plan and according to this, Prasanna was already on day 8 and I was on day 4. He impressed on us the urgency and importance of taking anti-inflammatory medicines and anti-coagulation injections and thanks to friends of ours in Jayanagar who immediately brought us the medicines needed, we were able to start on all the necessary medications that very day itself. The valuable lessons my mother gave me giving my grandmother her insulin injections came in very handy here as I was able to comfortably give Prasanna and myself the sub-cutaneous injections.
With just two injections of the anti-coagulants administered, Prasanna’s headache had significantly reduced and mine reduced with 6 doses of it. Our miracle worker – Dr. Darrell – spent lots of time with us explaining what was happening to our body at various points, as and when we updated him on our condition. He told us that the headache we had both had was not fever induced – rather that micro-clots were being formed and that was causing the splitting aches we had (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9huxj_2oZH0&feature=youtu.be). One of his main points to us was also that day 8 to day 11 is the critical point when a person with covid either does better or has a turn for the worse. With bated breath we waited for those critical three days with Prasanna and on 11th September when Dr. Darrell said that Prasanna was over the worse, we all heaved a huge sigh of relief. By this point, Prasanna had stopped running a fever, his headache was gone, he had very little body ache, but had lost his sense of taste and smell and was extremely fatigued.
Dr. Darrell noted that us having a 4 day difference was good, as it was now Prasanna’s turn to give me all the TLC as I entered the critical period from 12th September. I was having a number of symptoms by then – severe diarrhoea over 5 days (from day 6 to day 10), acute body pain, chills, extreme fatigue, a little breathlessness, nausea and sour eructations. I was very miserable – but heartfelt wishes and healing energies sent from friends and family, time out in our garden, listening to all my favourite music, timely advice from Dr. Darrell and his pep talks, eating deliciously nutritious food that my parents brought across every day and loving care by Prasanna – helped me get over this bump and by day 14 (17th September), I started to feel much better. A big thank you to all our family, friends and colleagues – who took time out of their days to chat with us, kept our spirits upbeat and kept us in their thoughts and prayers.
My f-i-l was in the hospital for 5 days, post which he completed his quarantine in a hotel – thanks to all the arrangements that Shivakumar uncle made. Uncle was really keen that we do not exert ourselves in any way and just focus on ourselves, and he, his nephew and son-in-law took it upon themselves to do whatever was needed for my f-i-l, including getting his room and the common areas at home fumigated before he got back on the 18th of September.
Due to the medication given by Dr. Darrell, both Prasanna and I were no longer infective by 13th September but decided to be extra cautious and continue to take all the quarantine precautions. On day 18 (21st September), my parents decided to bring me back to their house to get some additional TLC and recharge my batteries. Here not only do I have the company of my parents, but also our assistant Radha (who made all the yummy food for us), my grandparents, brother, sister-in-law and 15 month old nephew. My parents and grandparents were also under the guidance of Dr. Darrell and had taken precautionary medicines as I was with them earlier in the week when I got infected.
Today is day 26 for me (30th September) and I am feeling significantly better. I still have a lot of fatigue, some confusion and my voice is very low (which is very normal whenever I fall sick). It has taken me the whole day to write out this article, with lots of breaks in the middle as I have not been able to look at the screen comfortably for so long, have made a number of typing errors, typing for more than a few minutes at a time has caused cramping in my hands and sitting in one position for any length of time still gives me trouble. So while all my symptoms have gone away, the mild after-effects of covid-19 continue and there is no way that I can push my body to do more than it can.
As a counsellor, I would like to briefly talk about the stigma associated with having covid. It is something that I am facing too, and in connection so is my family. But let’s understand that people are not keen on associating with a person who has recently had covid because they are worried about getting infected themselves. Fear underlines a number of our actions. Therefore don’t feel blue or alone, when folks close to you ask you to stay away for sometime or don’t want to enter your house for a few weeks, after you have recovered. Instead remember that this is their way of keeping themselves safe and that in a few weeks everything will be much better. As a colleague of mine reminded me, in the moment – this feels like it is huge and never ending, however it is only a phase which will soon be over. When we look back at this we will wonder why we were so perturbed or disturbed. This is the time to pull out all the patience we have within us to deal with the situation.
So for all of you out there who feel that covid is far away from you, please throw that notion out. Covid is right next to us, but it is nothing to fear. With adequate precautions, medical support and a positive attitude, it is very possible to come out on the other side with flying colours.
Also remember that you need proper medical guidance and please do not self medicate.
The next write up will talk about the safety precautions we took during this phase while maintaining our eco-friendly lifestyle.