I write this today with the hope that it ends up helping some readers on how to navigate the uncertainty that comes with being tested positive for COVID-19.
“Your results are back, and you have been tested positive for COVID-19.”
These words rang in my ear undifferentiated from the dream I was having, moments earlier. The sleepiness, with which I had answered my phone, was jarringly disturbing as reality hit me like a splash of cold water.
It was May 29, day 12 of having COVID-like symptoms. I still wasn’t sure whether I was relieved with the certainty, or anxious because of the uncertainty that lay ahead.
I had a million thoughts racing in my mind alone, interspersed with those of my husband’s. And, within the next few minutes, our home resembled the atmosphere of a call centre, with calls from our family members and follow up calls from our physician and pharmacist, who were informed by our municipality — the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Two officials from the BMC visited our home within the next hour. They had a caring disposition, that unnerved me almost immediately. They asked basic questions of me including symptoms, family size, home size, and more. They recommended I be hospitalised and the rest of my family be home quarantined. In keeping with the protocol, they enquired about the health of our immediate neighbours and a floor above and below ours. However, there was no sealing of the floor or society.
Since I was suffering from a severe cough, we decided not to take any risk and go ahead with hospitalisation. But, the question was — which hospital? How do we make the choice?
We ended up calling the COVID and BMC helplines, and they suggested going we go for private treatment. The search for a private hospital seemed futile — either no beds were available or there was a long waitlist. Finally, we managed to get a bed in one of the renowned hospitals in western suburbs of Mumbai through some influence.
As per hospital policy, the patient would have to be transported via an ambulance alone, and one family member can tail the vehicle (if needed, for hospital administrative paperwork. The ambulance arrived within a few hours. My bag was ready with the necessary stuff, I boarded the ambulance while my husband followed it in our car.
We were charged close to ₹8,000 for a short ride. I was allowed inside the hospital gate only after a minimum deposit of ₹1 lakh was paid. The billing personnel came to the gate to complete the formalities — they accepted payment only via card/net banking from relatives. No card/cash is accepted from the COVID patient.
The ambulance dropped me inside the hospital’s COVID-19 section entry point. I was given directions to reach the ward. Due to paucity of space, I was allotted a general ladies COVID-19 ward, since a private or sharing room was unavailable.
There were 25 beds in the ward and patients occupied alternate beds initially. I was given a bed, hospital dress and an N-95 mask. A nurse took my vitals and a blood sample for the analysis. Soon after, a doctor did a check-up, followed by a radiologist, who performed a mobile X-ray analysis. At 2 am, I was taken for a CT scan. (The hospital tries to schedule CT scans for COVID patients at night).
These tests are the standard protocol, irrespective of the symptoms or consent, but obviously, adding towards a hefty bill.
I couldn’t sleep that night, kept replaying the events of the past 2 weeks. On May 16, I had driven to our neighbourhood pharmacy and fruit seller, taking all necessary precautions i.e. mask, gloves, sanitiser. This was my first trip in 30 days for some urgent needs. The area was not crowded, and people followed social distancing. As soon as I got back home, I had taken a bath and sanitised all the items I purchased. This was, by far, the only incident that I can link to my testing positive.
May 18 onwards, I started developing classic COVID-like symptoms, with 103 fever. I was in touch with our general physician, who recommended blood tests to rule out all other possibilities, whilst prescribing me a flu course. When the tests came back negative, with no sight of my symptoms going away, we requested for a COVID-19 test referral. By now I was on day 10 of my symptoms. I drove to a private test centre for a nasal and throat swab and received the dream-breaking call within 48 hours.
I was prescribed vitamin tablets, acidity tablets, cough syrup, gargling syrup and hydroxychloroquine. Warm water was being given to all the patients in the flask. Meals were served as per a nutritionist’s diet plan. Since the day of my hospitalisation, I had no fever.
Meanwhile, at home, my husband and my father (who lived in the next building, and visited us during meals) developed mild fever and some weakness along with anxiety, which subsided with prescribed medication and home remedies. As suggested by the BMC and doctors, testing wasn’t done for them but they followed a strict home quarantine protocol.
Time went by in the hospital speaking to folks around, sharing their experiences.
After five days of my medication, I was unfortunately tested positive for COVID again on June 4. All drugs, except hydroxychloroquine, were continued. An additional medicine was also prescribed and a test was to be conducted after 48–72hrs. On June 7, I was finally tested negative and discharged.
I felt like a warrior. Yes, I had fought the deadly Coronavirus!
On reaching home, I followed strict home quarantine for the next 14 days. Even though I had no symptoms, I could still be an active carrier, so I was supposed to be isolated from family members too — confined to one room with separate utensils. On day 14, I had a scheduled video consultation with the doctor, and I was finally free. I met my son after one whole month (he was shifted to my father’s place the first day my symptoms showed.)
It was a fight, a constant one, every single day. Your immune system along with your willpower is the only vaccine till date.
Antibiotics, Vitamins and other medicines as prescribed by doctors along with home remedies including steam, hot water gargle, turmeric milk, herbal tea (kadha).