‘A million thoughts crossed my mind. I had a lot of pending issues in the family. I collected all my important papers, my debit and credit cards, specific keys and information and handed them over to my wife, in front of my children.’
With the best of quarantine at home with the family, work from home and with all precautions of digital shopping, marketing, wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, sanitisation and no domestic help for a considerable time, seven weeks ago somewhere somehow, I let my guard down, and became a victim of the dreaded COVID-19.
Initially as a home quarantine patient I was already put on Ivermectin, Doxy and supportive treatment by the online consulting doctor. I had developed a chest congestion and a CT scan of the chest showed areas of concern. The Oxygen saturation had dipped to 93. I was diabetic.
My CRP (C Reactive Protein) figure was high at 53, a mark of inflammation. I was also desaturated. I was advised for immediate hospitalisation with IV antivirals.
Frantic calls were made to nearby hospitals in South Delhi for an addmission, with a private room. Several known hospitals turned down the request. Finally my daughter zeroed in at Max Smart City Hospital in Saket four kilometers from our residence in GK2. She got to speak to the Covid in charge Dr. Jaya Kumar who turned out to be a Pulmonologist and had earlier worked in the team of Dr Randeep Guleria, who is now heading AIIMS. This was reassuring. She promised to help me with an immediate admission and would make a request for a private room for me. Within half an hour we got a call from the hospital management asking us the patient’s details and how payment would be made and if we had any insurance cover or were on any panel. As had been advised, we did not declare that I was a CGHS beneficiary, lest a bed be refused to me. We opted to go next morning.
A million thoughts crossed my mind. I had a lot of pending issues in the family. I collected all my important papers, my debit and credit cards, specific keys and information and handed them over to my wife, in front of my children.
The pictures on television, of doctors in attendance, in PPEs surrounding patients on ventilators on hospital beds, was too hunting.
Next morning, my son and daughter drove me to the hospital. Post addmission, both had moist eyes when they said goodbye. So had I. It’s not easy, no matter how brave one tries to be. This was a deadly disease with no definite cure.
I was totally surrounded by hospital staff in PPEs. They were just faces, but each had his and her name on the back, at the shoulder level.
Once I had settled down in my single room, the doctor on call visited me and give me a brief understanding of the whole treatment process. Within a few minutes, the medication started with antiviral Covifor, Solumedrol the Steroid, Ceftriaxone-antibiotic and Enoxaparin the anti-coagulant with supportive treatment and Linid was added later for Enterococcus Faecalis. Besides this the usual daily medicines for other ailments also continued. The dietitian too called up and took my preferences for food and told me the options that best suited my diabetic background. With a shunt in place on my left hand, I thought I would be ‘tied’ to the bed but no, it was only when the medicines were being administered intravenously.
I knew that basically, the virus attacks the lungs and by a process of fibrosis makes them incompetent to function. My chest congestion was my original worry. Dr. Jaya Kumar was supervising from the adjacent building, the team of front line warriors. She called me within an hour of my admission and reassured me that I should be alright within a week’s time. There were two doctors attending the wards in shifts, Dr. Imtiaz and Dr. Khushboo. Constant monitoring was done of all patients on a centrally computerized system, where the data was fed immediately after regular check-ups, all of twenty four hours. Dr. Jaya religiously spoke to me every morning and on some days in the evening too, to let me know the progress of my treatment.
Mine was a moderate infection and since the medicines, including steroids were been given to me, there was a legitimate hike in the blood sugar levels and for that reason, I had to be given insulin to control it. I had never been administered insulin before and was worried that now, I might become a victim of a continuous use of insulin. Thankfully, that was not the case.
The main medicine was 600 mg of Remdisivir (Covifor) the antiviral, beginning with 200 mg on the first day and 100 mg again on the next four days. The world has only now seen the vaccine.
Pertinent to say, from the kitchen every food item was carefully packed in disposable bio-degradable containers and marked ‘diabetic’. Food was available 24 hours on call and was delectable.
Post breakfast and post early tea, in the evening, a few patients wearing facial masks, would come out of the rooms, to walk around in the corridors. Seldom anyone spoke to the others, out of sheer embarrassment or for maintaining a safe distance. This, the fourth floor, was a floor of those patients who had a moderate or mild attack of the disease. On the other floors, there were those who needed extra attention with oxygen masks and yet others who were on ventilators. My thoughts always veered towards these patients and I prayed in my heart ‘God please be with them’.
There was a time initially, when Covid-19 patients were not allowed to carry mobiles phones with them and indeed it sounded frightening, but now one could remain in touch with family and friends on video calls. Technology was an enabler.
The room was cleaned and sanitised every few hours, including the washroom. The house-keeping, cleanliness and sanitisation were regimented. Every now and then, the medicines and the dozes would change, according to the frequent test parameters. This was the advantage of the hospital monitoring. Alone in the room the day seemed lengthy. Perforce one had to remain positive.
On the seventh day, the second Covid test came negative. I was overjoyed. The doctor conveyed her permission to allow me to go home, though I could stay another day. I decided to leave. There would be many patients more deserving than me for this facility. I thanked her profusely. I would get to meet her for the OPD in a few days.
Every day I would receive a text message from the billing department, stating my daily bills and this would be added to the next days, as a consolidation. When I finally called the billing section to know what my dues were, I was pleasantly surprised to know that as a CGHS beneficiary, a senior citizen, my treatment was not only cashless, there were no dues to be paid. It was then only, that I truly realised, the value of a CGHS Card.
The discharge papers included a set of full medical reports containing the day-to-day test results and the medicines administered. It also contained the prescription for the next two weeks and additionally, all the medicines required by me for a seven day period. These were handed, neatly packed and enveloped.
I thanked all the staff present and paused for a moment. I prayed for the well-being of the patients still there and on all the floors below. Once I stepped out of the Covid marked area, my two children greeted me. I was Covid free. It was like crossing a long bridge.
A few days later, my family went through a Covid test. Thankfully, they were all negative. However, the fight is not over yet.
Writer is a Fulbright scholar, and has been a former Chief Producer of News and Current Affairs at Doordarshan.