It has now been a month and a half since my first symptom. I remember the day before vividly. It was a regular working day. I had wrapped up work by 9 pm or so, dinner by 11, watched a little TV and then went to sleep by 12:00 am. Everything was fine till then. The next thing I know was waking up at around 7:00 am next morning with body ache and a throat irritation. I sprung up on bed with a déjà vu of my dengue experience last November.
As my sleepy self tried to find its bearings, a number of things started running through my foggy brain. Is it just a cold? But no, I had been cold-free the last 2 years since I started my tonsillitis medication. Could it be you-know-what? What happens next? I looked at Tathagata’s sleeping face. He looked peaceful. In a moment, everything will change. I held on to the “normal” for one last second. Then I gingerly woke him up.
What happened next was a mad rush. I immediately isolated myself in my room. A lot of speculations were being made, plans were being laid out, masks pulled up, medicines suggested. We were all apprehensive.
The first couple of days when you don’t know what it is are the worst. Scratch that. Nothing can be worse than the jabs in your nose and throat for a sample collection. 2 days later, my worst fear was confirmed. I was COVID positive.
By then I had already packed in to my room, ready for a 14-day haul. Some of my friends had started developing similar symptoms around the same time. So it became a ritual to wake up in the morning and swap updates over the phone about how we were all feeling. My throat ache was persisting but most of my body ache had disappeared. I could still smell and taste alright. I was running a slight temperature on and off – not high enough to be concerned about. I felt some tiredness. Other than that, I was doing pretty much ok.
I had my daily routine laid out. Wake up. Inform everyone about how I was feeling. Freshen up (by which I mean, brush my teeth, wash my clothes, shower, disinfect) Have breakfast. Medicine. A bit of social media, some reading. Sleep. Wake up to a snack. Stay awake till lunch and more medicines. Sleep again. Wake up to tea and Netflix. Dinner. Medicines. Sleep. That was pretty much it. Until one (not so) fine morning a couple of days later, Tathagata entered the room and said, “I’m joining you”. He had lost his smell!
He was tested COVID positive two days later. No surprise there. At the beginning, he too had similar symptoms like mine. A light fever, some tiredness. We discussed that we had probably been let off the hook with a mild effect of the virus. Little did we know then that the universe had other plans for us.
Just when we were beginning to believe that we were among the lucky ones, Tathagata’s fever started to really kick in. Everything went downhill from there. With each day his temperature began to attain new heights. His skin was hot to touch and was getting hotter every day like an overworked engine. He had zero energy and could barely make it out of bed. Our doctor switched medications. We changed thermometers. And prayed as hard as we could. But nothing seemed to work.
Tathagata was too dazed to know what time of the day it was. Half the time, he didn’t even know where he was. I stayed awake most of the night checking his temperature, putting on a cold compress, monitoring his breathing and praying. But his fever had no intention to take a break. We knew that the fever was the reaction to the Big C acting up. And that scared us stiff.
Almost a week passed like this and then the doctor decided to make a final medication switch. If this didn’t work, he would need to be hospitalized. When I heard the update, it felt like the ground was giving away beneath my feet.
Tathagata was not doing good physically and emotionally. He was scared to go to sleep. He would sit on his favourite chair, jack his legs up on the bed and force himself to stay awake. COVID had taken out the sparkle of his eyes. He was too nervous to smile. It was the most heart-broken I had felt in all my 30 years of life. I tried to pour all of my strength on to him. Trying to boost his confidence. Making him believe that better days are ahead. Joking about our travel mishaps. Talking about the sea. Telling him to fight the virus, show it who’s the boss.
Days went by like this. His temperature was nowhere near normal. We had been hating on the thermometer like it was our worst enemy. Every time, he put the silvery end of that God-awful-stick in his mouth, the reading started from 100 degrees! Like it had a grudge to settle with us. And then it would gallop – 100.5, 100.8, 101, 101.3, 101.6…. We used to focus all of our energy on the tiny screen trying to somehow make it stop the rising temperature count with our brain waves (like that’s possible!). That thermometer disappointed us every single time. We now have a thing against Hicks, no kidding.
The only thing that kept us going was trying hard to look at the brighter things. Even though there wasn’t much of it. We still strained to pick out and celebrate the little improvements. For example, if his afternoon temperature was less than the previous afternoon by a mere 0.2 degrees, I would do a happy jig and thank God. It felt like a victory. But again at night, his temperature would crank up a few notches and smash that fleeting victory with what felt like Thor’s hammer.
The new medication wasn’t doing much. But we drew some relief from the phenomenal confidence of our physician. He knew what he was doing and he wanted us to be patient. So we waited patiently. By then, I had resumed office – still in quarantine and recovering. Tathagata had given up on forcing himself to stay awake during the day. That awful fever had been wreaking havoc to his body and playing with all of our minds. We were all tired. Scared out of our wits. Assuming the worst. Nothing made sense. Nothing else mattered. Each day felt like a year. Dragging our anxious selves through the whims of the thermometer. Like an endless battle.
My new routine changed to – Wake up from a bad dream. Tired. Clean the room. Help Tathagata freshen up. Wash clothes. Freshen up myself. Check temperature & SPO2. Lay out the medicines for both of us. Breakfast. Begin work. Break for mid-morning snack. Check Tathagata’s temperature & SPO2. Work. Lunch. Work. Break for tea. Check temperature & SPO2. Work again. Lie down for a bit. Check temperature & SPO2. Dinner. I used to be drained by the end of the day. But the constant worrying kept me awake at night. Whatever little sleep I could squeeze in was filled with nightmares.
Then on the 11th afternoon of his quarantine, the heavens finally decided to take our case. The judgment was out. I saw large beads of sweat forming on Tathagata’s forehead. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I jumped up from my workstation and touched his arm. His body was cooling down. In a couple of minutes, he was drenched in sweat and very much awake. That was the first time in what felt like a grueling decade that I saw a hint of smile forming at the corners of his mouth. I felt like crying. I think I called up everyone I knew that day to share the news!
We kept our fingers crossed for the night. The next day the fever kept steady on its lessening course. By the morning after, the fever had finally left the building. That was it. A wave of relief washed over us. Everything started falling into place after that. We still had another week to go for our combined quarantine to be over. We still couldn’t smell or taste a thing. We were whacked out. But we felt like a million bucks. Nothing else mattered.
We are now out of quarantine. Back to normal life. With antibodies swimming in our bloodstream. Today, sitting here, typing this out, May 2021 feels like a bad dream. No one should have to go through something like that. We haven’t set foot outside the house yet. I don’t think I want to for a long time. I think I’m more paranoid now than I was when I first heard of the virus last year. I will continue to be until this virus leaves the planet for good.
It has now been a month and a half since my first symptom. And now, I don’t want to remember what happened next.
Some of the useful leads that have been massive help for us:
- Kolkata Ola & Uber App Cab Union Operator & Driver Union CITU – Transports COVID-infected people for necessary work at reasonable rates. We used the service to go to a pathology centre to get our chest Xrays done.
Phone numbers: 9874404040, 9007774116, 9674000858, 9748463237
- Apollo 247 App – We used this to book a video call session with an experienced pulmonologist for a second opinion. You can send your reports and prescription in the chatroom before the call begins so that the doctor can go through them and provide a more comprehensive consultation.
Download Android app: https://bit.ly/3g6IpVn
Download iPhone app: https://apple.co/2TlhtYX
- Swasthya Bhawan Registration – If someone you know might need hospitalization for COVID, you can call up the toll-free number mentioned below to get the patient registered for a hospital bed. This will save you time and hassle during emergencies. On the call, a representative will fill up a form on your behalf by noting down medical and contact details of the patient. The phone number you provide will be the registration code which will be referenced if there is need for hospitalization. Toll-free number: 1800313444222
Hope you never need any of these. Stay safe. Stay indoors.