Around April 7-8, I had asked my office peon who was visibly unwell to get tested. He was 60, and recently underwent open heart surgery. On April 11, I remember sitting in front of a cooler, feeling colder than usual, following which I woke up at 2:00 am, shivering with high fever.
I immediately isolated myself, took a Paracetamol tablet and slept. When I woke up, I got the news that my peon had died. I went to the university that has set up an RT-PCR camp, got tested, and continued isolating on returning home.
Next day, the report came positive. My PA and Professor in-charge also tested positive. I have noticed that if in 5-6 days you don’t show signs of improvement; it means the virus has spread to the lungs, which happened in my case.
I was fine in the beginning, but my coughing and weakness increased. I developed white fungus in my mouth, which made eating and swallowing difficult. I was soon put on steroids.
All this while, I kept having chicken soup, salads. I did a lot of proning by looking at the videos I was forwarded by well-wishers on WhatsApp, and my oxygen levels would instantly shoot up from 88 to 95. Sixty per cent of the time I just lay on my stomach.
By then, family members were getting anxious about my condition. I went in for a consultation to Holy Family Hospital, and was told I need to get hospitalised.
There were no available beds at the hospital, and after much searching, I finally got one at Hakeem Abdul Hameed Centenary Hospital on April 20. By the time I got admitted, it was 12:30am.
My experience at the hospital was quite bizarre. I was put in a just-opened Covid ward that was bang in front of a mortuary. From my window, I could see the continuous activity of grieving families, staff and corpses being taken away. When I woke up in the morning, the man in front of me had died, and his body was left on the bed till 4:00 pm.
After the bed was remade, a young man occupied it. Later, we found that his wife had just delivered a baby in the same hospital! Meanwhile, I found cats in my ward! Once, I shared my boiled egg with an orange cat. Later, that night I woke up to find him sitting on the food station! The toilets in a terrible state. Once, the wash basin was full of vomit.
The nurses’s station was always empty, and to call one, one had to walk out or approach housekeeping. I was using my own oximeter, because the one by the ward was faulty. I had also carried sachets of ORS powder, and later had flasks of hot soup and chai delivered from home.
Next day, I pleaded to get discharged because the environment was very depressing. However, after our complaints the situation improved instantly. The toilets were cleaned regularly and by the time I got discharged I saw a nurse occupying the station. On May 04, I tested negative. I still experience fatigue.
Only 50 per cent the sense of smell has returned, and about 60 per cent of taste. I have lost 12- 13kgs in the interim. From the time I tested positive till now, I have lost five members in the extended family from Covid, all 50+ years old. One of them was my brother-in-law, who had comorbidities. I tried to lift his pyre but I instantly felt so fatigued, I had to ask a friend to take over.
But throughout my Covid experience, I stayed positive. People check their falling oxygen levels on the oximeter and get scared, or get worried that they won’t find a bed, oxygen cylinder, quality treatment, etc.
But don’t be afraid. In fact, I wrote a note ‘I have to get well’ and kept it in front of me. I dealt with Covid with the same attitude that sportsmen have when they motivate themselves and other team members to win a match. I used to say the namaaz on the bed ‘isharo se (with actions)’ which Islam permits if you are ill.
Today, I counsel my family, especially the ones who are recuperating. I tell them that you may hear bad news today, but tomorrow, you may hear worse. Just be mentally prepared for anything. Exercise and stay away from social media. It is pointless to cry and lose your peace of mind over relatives who have been hospitalised far away.
You can only help them by making an online transfer if they need monetary aid. Ahmad Azeem, 42, Public Relations Officer, Jamia Millia University.
– As told to Ornella D’Souza