It came as a common flu. Not unfamiliar with minor malaises such as headache, mild fever and body ache, I saw the neighbourhood physician in the hope that the “viral fever” would go with paracetamol, antibiotics and Vitamin C tablets. It didn’t play out that way.
A week passed and different tests—blood, urine and chest —ruled out malaria, typhoid and dengue. Neither the doctor nor I had discussed the need for getting tested for Covid-19 at our first meeting. Another doctor friend whose opinions I value initially stopped me from going in for the Covid-19 test. The mere thought of an ambulance with a blaring siren at my building lobby and municipal employees and cops waiting outside my room as I packed a few clothes in a bag sent shivers down my spine. The stigma attached to corona-positive patients was depressingly dreadful. I didn’t get tested for it in the first week.
I entered the second week with a fever refusing to subside and growing weakness. I began losing appetite and taste of food and smell. The symptoms indicated that I was Covid-19 positive. Though an antibody test done a few days earlier had come negative, the doctor said it was unreliable. A second x-ray of the chest showed some patches on the upper side, adding to the worries. I sent the x-ray report to a senior radiologist friend on WhatsApp. “Get admitted immediately. Your lung seems to have been infected with pneumonia,” said the friend. I had already, willy-nilly, given a swab of saliva for RT-PCR, the gold standard for Covid-19 detection, a day earlier. I was still in two minds: Should I get admitted or wait for the test’s results and try to get cured through home quarantine? The fear of being stigmatized as a corona patient still unnerved me.
A desperate call to an office colleague on the health beat helped. Hearing me out patiently, she too advised not to delay and get admitted to a hospital immediately. Fortunately, a big private hospital is just a few minutes walk from my house. But stories of some patients dying and allegations of inflated bills being handed over to relatives were floating and I was a bit reluctant to go there. All sorts of questions played on my mind: What if the bills overshot my medical insurance limit? What if my condition deteriorated and they didn’t allow my family members to see me?
Meanwhile, a senior office colleague called. “Don’t bother about the bills. You have insurance and if the bills go beyond the insured amount, we are there,” he said. That call encouraged me to do what was needed.
I packed a pair of casual clothes, a toothbrush, a toothpaste tube, a comb but forgot the shaving kit, wore my gloves and a face mask, said goodbye to my teary-eyed wife, unfolded the umbrella and walked out into the pouring rain. Five minutes later, I was in the hospital’s emergency ward. The doctor and nurses immediately admitted me, and put me through a couple of tests.
After a night’s stay in the “suspected Covid-19 isolation room”, they shifted me to the Covid-19 ward as soon as the swab test report came positive. Here the treatment for coronavirus began. A CT scan proved infection in the lung. When bouts of dry cough hit me, they gave me Zedex cough syrup and it worked. One night I woke up sweating profusely. I called a nurse who checked my oxygen level, pulse, BP. Everything was fine, yet the sweating would not stop. She consulted the doctor who advised an angiography test. Nothing was wrong with my heart. I suffered diarrhea and my blood sugar kept fluctuating. I never went on the ventilator or became breathless. Before they gave me a heavy dose (nine tablets at a time twice followed by four tablets twice) of FabiFlu, they made me sign a declaration that the hospital would not be responsible for any reactions. The tablets worked and my fever subsided.
There were four more patients in this ward. I kept myself busy by reading and writing. They allotted me a bed near the window, which allowed ample sunlight to beam in and a view of the world outside. Unlike Amitabh Bachchan’s hospital room, mine was neither dark nor cold.
After 10 days of treatment, I tested negative for Covid-19 and was discharged. I walked back to my house.
I walked out of a bright and sunny hospital, Covid-free.
Mohammed Wajihuddin, a seanior journalist, is associated with The Times of India, Mumbai. This piece has been picked up from NRI Group.