Author’s Note: This is the story of my friend who chooses to remain anonymous. Like many others diagnosed with Coronavirus, he’s suffered too. Not physically, but definitely emotionally and mentally. His story raises a lot of valid questions—not just on the system but also on us. I’m just the messenger!
On 24th February 2020, around 4 pm, I was enjoying the sights of the Vatican with my wife when a tweet told me that Northern Italy had gone into a semi-lockdown, including the city of Venice. I was shocked, to say the least. Four days back, I was happily enjoying a Gondola ride in the canals of Venice. Everything was normal there. We didn’t see a soul wearing a mask. There wasn’t any paranoia or even information about a deadly virus spreading through the city. What changed in four days? How did it get so bad that they had to put an entire city in lockdown?
Anyway, we continued our trip. We felt thankful for not having the missed the Venice Carnival. (Stupid us! I know…) A little scared, but hopeful. We came back to India. Our flight landed on 26th February, at 2 am in Delhi. We went through immigration without a glitch. Most importantly, we weren’t screened or questioned at all. It was surprising, but we thought maybe that protocol was only for flights coming from China.
Life resumed as usual. Or so I thought. On March 1st, I woke up with some body pain. It was so mild that I ignored it, blaming it on a long trip or a bad sleeping posture maybe. March 2nd, the ache was still there. I ignored it again and went to the office. Things got a bit scary around lunch that day when I read on inShorts that an Indian man with travel history to Italy had tested positive for Coronavirus. I immediately started reading about the virus. I knew one of the symptoms was body ache, which follows after fever. The other prime symptom was cough. But I had none.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. After consulting with my family doctor, I got myself tested at RML Hospital on the very same day. Being among the earliest cases in Delhi, the whole procedure took me around 15-20 minutes. I was asked to self-isolate myself at home for two days until the results came back, which took about 48 hours. I did as I was told.
March 3: I woke up feeling perfectly fine. No body ache.
March 4: Around 2 pm, I had a few missed calls from two unknown numbers. I tried calling them back. The mobile number was busy, and the landline number played an automated message. Now, an automated message usually is harmless. You’d think it’s some lame customer care number. But not this one. Three words stood out in that message: Delhi Ambulance Service. I knew something was not right. I started panicking.
The mobile number called back; it was the District Surveillance Officer. What happened next, my friends, turned my world over its head. I was informed that I had tested positive for coronavirus. An ambulance was en route to take me to the hospital. I was told of the protocol I had to follow until I reached Safdarjung Hospital. You might be wondering what was going on in my mind. Honestly, it drew a blank. I felt numb. How could I be positive if I don’t have any symptoms? I’m fine. I was fine. I felt fine. But, I wasn’t.
And then, another thought—a more grave one—hit me. How many people had I exposed to this virus? My family, my colleagues, my friends. But there was still a sense of calm knowing that I won’t be dying because I felt fine.
I was directly taken to the Super Specialty Ward in Safdarjung. I was put in a private room, away from everyone. I was kept there for 16 days; I was tested thrice for COVID-19 during this time. Here, I have to appreciate the doctors, nurses and other staff members. Top-notch, friends! My room and washroom were cleaned twice a day. The bedsheet was changed every day. I was not allowed to meet anyone. I was not allowed to step out of the room. I had access to my smartphone and all other belongings. All in all, I was well taken care of.
But one thing I felt missing was access to psychologists or counsellors. Isolation is tough. Not being able to see another human being for such a long time. Not being able to meet my family, my wife, my friends. I felt caged in one room. This could very easily take a toll on someone’s mental health. Think about the man who jumped off the Safdarjung building. Just the mere thought of being kept in quarantine is scary, imagine being there. Thankfully, I had a strong support system of my family and friends who got me through it. And of course, there’s always Netflix and chill.
Like I said, I was tested thrice for the virus. First one was positive, but the other two were negative. Most importantly, I had no fever or cough or any other symptoms connected to Covid-19 in these 16 days. All my vitals were fine. Sixteen days later, I was discharged and advised to self-isolate myself at home for 14 days. I’m still in self-isolation. No one is allowed to enter my room. I have to adhere to the same protocol I followed in the hospital.
I am yet to hug my family. I am just extremely relieved and happy that we’re at least under the same roof. Just knowing that they’re in the room right to next mine is all I need right now to get through this tough time.
I am not sharing my story to gain sympathy from anyone, but to raise awareness. To ask questions that we haven’t been asking till now: How many more people, like me, are out there exhibiting no symptoms and yet carrying the virus? What about the people who were on the same flight as me? Why aren’t we testing enough? Why are we still following a wait-and-watch policy? We’re at the local transmission stage. We saw countries with better infrastructure suffering at the hands of this virus. Complete failures! China, Italy, Spain, Germany, USA, UK.
The state and central governments in our country have done a lot of rights to curb this epidemic. But is it enough? What measures are being taken to scale up healthcare? Why aren’t we locking down? Why aren’t we testing enough?
In the end, I have a small appeal to make to each one of you. Stay at home. If I could do it, you can too. And if you or anyone you know is exhibiting the symptoms, please…please…get yourself tested. Do not endanger your and others lives. Let’s all do better together!