My Covid Story began with my attempt of remaining Covid free, i.e. by getting vaccinated. What an irony. While trying to get the so-called “Suraksha Kawach” (an armour/shield), I brought the infection from the overcrowded vaccination centre where the only Covid norm that was being followed was the lavish use of sanitisers.
There was no social distancing in the waiting areas, corridors and lifts. People seemed to be wearing masks only to cover their double chins or prevent their chins from getting tanned. Above all, there was no one from the hospital administration to regulate all this or discipline people.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I had a fear of getting infected. I was in the high-risk category with weak lungs due to post-polio syndrome and scoliosis (curvature in spine), which had significantly affected my respiratory function. Sitting in a wheelchair made me more vulnerable to the exhaled air by the people standing around.
And lo! After 5 days of getting my first dose, I developed the symptoms. And then started a series of challenges.
The first one was a delay in getting tested. I was dependent on home collection for the RT-PCR test, for which I had to vigorously explore the internet for a lab that could get my tests done, as home collection for RT-PCR had been stopped by most labs. Eventually, one lab sent their technician to collect the samples and I was declared positive after 36 hours!
I have been listening to the regular announcements of our Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, since 2020 to remain in home quarantine and how patients would be given expert advice on medicines, oxy-meters and other support by the state’s health department. With a rising temperature and other symptoms, I tried every helpline number given on their website, but no one bothered to respond. The whole system seemed to have collapsed.
Suggested by my uncle, I started my treatment with the standard Covid treatment package of some antibiotics, vitamin supplements, paracetamol, etc. For 8 days I had a 102-degree temperature.
And then came a twist in the plot. My Covid story didn’t remain mine only. As I always say, my umbilical cord is yet to be cut. My 75-year-old mother, who is my major caregiver, got infected by me. How could she leave me isolated as I needed support for every activity?
Before I could get completely well, she developed the symptoms. And again, there started another round of struggles. Now my focus completely shifted to her medicines, oxygen levels, nebulisation and treatment.
I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say that I faced the situation bravely. Never in my life have I been so fearful. I was scared of dying. There was a multitude of emotions. There was uncertainty about what if one of us had to be hospitalised. There were apprehensions.
What if our medicines got out of stock with the neighbourhood chemist? What would I do if my mother’s condition deteriorated in the middle of the night? Who would come to us?
I had the guilt of passing the infection to my mother. We all know that negative emotional states, loneliness and fear bring about a cascade of split-second changes in the body. One day, I was so weak that I remember it took me 30 minutes to shift from my wheelchair to my bed. My left leg refused to move a bit. It seemed that all the strength and energy had been squeezed out of me.
It was a situation of crisis. Intense anxiety gripped me and the fight-or-flight was activated. As obvious, there was no option of flight; the spontaneous instinct was to fight. My mother and I started this fight as a team.
With determination and a positive attitude, I could plan everything. I am not trying to be boastful here, but I pat my back for my managerial skills and resilience. And of course, I’m grateful to my friends and relatives who helped us with food and medicines.
And today, my mother has had no fever for 3 days. My love for life, belief in the goodness of humanity and will to survive made my Covid Story a success.
But yes, I would say that I will never forgive the system where the weak, vulnerable and helpless are made to feel unwanted, uncared for, insecure and unloved.