“It was April 14th. It was a state holiday due to Tamizh New year. I woke up later than usual and I was having a pulsating pain in both my feet and I was feeling lethargic. By late afternoon I started sneezing a lot and that’s when I started getting suspicious. I went to the nearest testing center. Since it was late afternoon there were lesser people. When the lab assistant took the swab and went through my nose it became too uneasy and I started sneezing more. I was quite positive it would be negative because I still had my taste and smell intact. The result came in the late evening and I was tested positive. I got scared and it felt like my world stood still. More than the fear of falling down as a victim to a pandemic the hesitation involved in informing all the loved ones was more. I called my Appa and asked him if he was away from Amma and told him “I have tested positive for COVID-19” and then he gave the phone to Amma and I informed her. She got all upset and I was telling her what I should be doing after this.
I was advised to engage the Government General Hospital as they are more equipped to handle pandemics than private hospitals. It was 10 PM and I was rushing with my car. It was the first time I was entering the Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital opposite Central Railway Station. I was asked to enter my address and contact details and I was let inside the COVID-19 outpatient department and it was overflowing with sick people. I waited for less than 5 mins and a doctor came and checked my vitals and oxygen saturation and asked if I had any other ailments. I was directed by the doctor to the chest X-ray section. The radiologist there was making a conversation with me saying that if my chest X-ray was clear thenI was lucky. She asked me to come back in 45 mins to get the results. Those 45 minutes were filled with imaginations of the worst kind and meanwhile I was having severe body pain, one that was worsening. After the wait the result came and it was just a piece of paper with some scribbles which I couldn’t read. I was directed to the doctor again and he saw it and he told me to not worry as my lungs weren’t infected and my vitals were good so I can start my home quarantine of 14 days. But in the end he added that if I developed any other symptoms, then I should be reporting to the hospital.
Before leaving home around midnight I was asked to sign some government papers regarding my acceptance to be in home quarantine. I signed it and took the doctor’s prescription and reached a 24 hour pharmacy. I was prescribed with some medicines, vitamin C and zinc supplements. I got these medicines and went home and took a shower. When I lied down I couldn’t sleep and I started browsing about the pathological facts about the CoronaVirus. I slept around 3 am and in the morning when I woke up I still had all the symptoms and it was furthered with complete loss of smell and taste. I started running a fever of 101 F. I was getting restless and that’s when the phone call from the city’s health department came asking about my condition. They said the lack of taste and smell is natural with covid infection and I can just continue with this course of medicine. Meanwhile I got a lot of home remedy advice like consuming turmeric water, eggs, lemons, oranges and pepper honey mix. I started doing all of that along with the doctor’s medicine.
The days went by and I was getting hopeful because no other symptoms were showing up and I was able to take classes and conduct examinations online. However I was getting tired very soon and I was sweating a lot but I was able to work and I didn’t develop any respiratory troubles. The home quarantine was getting to me in other ways like I didn’t have any company except my cat. I was quite scared that I might spread the infection to her. I was keeping an eye on her and seeing if she was acting weird. Luckily she survived the quarantine along with me.
During the quarantine it was so hard to see the things that were happening around me and it hurt the most when I wasn’t in a position to help them. Several of my students were tested positive and I was getting updates from them and few even lost their family members. A very close friend’s father passed away which was very shocking because he didn’t have any comorbidities and he was a very healthy person. My dentist who is also my close friend got the infection from me as I visited his clinic a couple of days before my onset of symptoms. Literally the whole world around me was falling down. It was hard to see my parents getting scared and calling me every three hours to keep a check on me. They were in a very tough position as they weren’t able to visit me since I was in isolation and even if they did travel all the way up to Chennai they wouldn’t be able to take care of me.
One thing I am pretty proud of myself is that I took only one day off from work during my entire COVID days. I was working as usual; I was grading papers. I got some quiet studio time during these sick days. I was painting almost everyday. I was watching a lot of art documentaries. I read more than usual. I spent more time with my cat. These are some of the things that kept me going through these fearful days.
On my 12th day of isolation I felt all well and I decided to take the second swab test and I again went back to Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital and this time it was very different. I saw the horrible effect of the pandemic. I saw dead people around the corridors. There were crying howls everywhere. The hospital was literally overflowing with patients. I decided to take the test somewhere else and I came back home and locked myself again. Next day around afternoon I went and took my test in a private diagnostic center. I came back home and started watching a documentary on the painter Francis Bacon. I slept off half the way through it. When I woke up I received an email and it was my test result. It was COVID negative.
I informed everyone who was with me through this. I was feeling healthier seeing the result. I just spent the night reminiscing about the quarantine days and I remembered that it was a lockdown anyway and I have to be like this for a long time to come.
When I was going through these days of frightening sickness I saw kindness in people. Many of my students messaged me every single day and night and their message was very simple “Sir, all well today?”. Some of my students even arranged a google meet to see how I was doing. I felt really grateful to have such souls around me. My colleagues did the same and they kept offering their help and the college management was also very considerate. My landlord was so kind too. He left a bag full of fruits and crates of eggs in my doorstep. My neighbor was kind enough to cook me several meals. My uncle sent me an oximeter the very next day after I was tested positive. My online friends kept me sane. My cat gave me a warm company lying on my tummy. Swiggy guys were all on time and nice. Finally my parents who never failed to check on me and gave me all the support I needed. One thing I am very sure of is that I was able to defeat the infection quite easily because of the healthy upbringing that my parents did. They fed me nutritious food and a gave me a healthy body. I was amazed by the speed with which I recovered. I started getting my sense of taste and smell back. Even though I still have the lethargy and tiredness which are common post covid symptoms I feel healthy.
And I was able to break the image that government hospitals are not of good standard. I was really astonished by the service provided by the Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital. The doctors were all very nice to me. The service was so quick and efficient. It was neat and clean. Everything was recorded properly. The health department called me over the days to keep a check on me. My advice to anyone who is tested positive would be go and check yourself in the nearest General Hospital.
After going through everything I know now that the second wave is like a Tsunami. In the first wave I had one or two people I hardly knew who contracted COVID-19 but this time at least 5 people I know of are getting positive everyday. I lost one of my close friends’ fathers too. The times are going to be much harder. Be prepared and when you have the onset of symptoms don’t hesitate to take medical help, follow the doctors advice closely and that is the only thing that will help us recover. Please don’t believe in the conspiracy involved with vaccines too. Get yourself vaccinated the first chance you get. Most of all, don’t lose hope too soon. One day, we all will defeat COVID!”