This is the first person narrative of Mr. Sekhar S, who got tested covid 19 positive upon return from Dubai after a short visit to there from Kerala just before the outbreak of the pandemic
The room was shabby, it had stains and dirt all around. There was a lot of dust. It seemed like the place has been locked way before the lockdown. We were provided with some basic necessities like toiletries a broom and a lot of bleaching powder. There were two small beds and one of the bed sheets were new. The beds were at least a decade old. So were the pillows. They had freshly washed covers but that was it. First day morning I realised that the door to my room was locked from the outside. Around 8, a volunteer brought us food. It was iddli and sambar and tasted really good. Around an hour later the welfare officer assigned to us came in to brief me. I was told that the quarantine will be 7 days instead of 14 as told to us at the airport. He told us that we would be provided food 3 times and snacks in between, we would be locked in and wouldn’t be allowed to get out of our room during the time period. We wouldn’t be allowed outside food or visitors or any sort of outside contact. The room had a single cfl light and a fan with no regulator. As for the toilet, it was shabbier than the room.
There was full of dust and dirt, the flush was leaking and broken dirty tiles all over. There was no place to dry my clothes which I washed. A quick look at the room and I decided to keep my luggage on the second bed and dry my clothes on it as it was the only neat place I could find. The first day a medical professional came in and asked me a few questions, like whether I had temperature coughs or any other sort of difficulties. An interesting thing is that my phone kept ringing throughout the day. Various people called and enquired about my health and wellbeing. Police, other government officials, people from covid cell, Disha, once or twice people from a mental health care centre. This was all the Kerala govt and kudos to them as it kept me occupied. On the first day evening the volunteer who brought us the food told me that the cancer patient has been shifted and the person with the leg issue has been taken to Parippaly Medical College for some reason. First day was eventless and it wasn’t bad.
The Night though was difficult as I met my match. Mosquitos, a lot of them. My room was at the end and had an extra window that opened to a en empty ground with a lot of vegetation. It seemed like it had rained heavily the previous days . Phone kept ringing throughout with people asking about my health and how things were. On the 3rd, the 6 of us were crammed into an ambulance and taken to Parsippany medical college for our covid test. It was told to me at the hospital that the person who had an issue with the leg had tested positive for covid as it was mandatory for hospital admission and as a precaution everyone from the lodge is being tested. It didn’t make sense as the only time I saw this person was on the bus and there were 180 people on the flight. We arrived at the hospital at 11 and were kept waiting. Everyone kept their distances and it is then we got to know about ourselves. At around 3 I was called in for my test. I had inadvertently put my sanitiser bottle on the table where the doctor was examining me and she scolded me in concern. The test itself is not very painful if performed correctly. The put a swab, almost 6 inches through your nose and rub the end. Then another swab to your throat and done.
We left the hospital at 5. For some of the people it was slightly painful. But for everyone the one common thing was a nasty headache that lasted a whole day. Our quarantine was to end on 5th. It was the 7th day. I had asked my dad to bring and drop our car near the lodge so that I could drive home by myself. Dad and brother in law brought the car and the car keys were handed to me afternoon. We were all waiting for our release papers to go home but around 5 we were informed that the test results would take another day and we could only leave when they came in. I felt it was the right thing as we could go home with confidence. I had packed my luggage bathed and gotten ready. Anyway decided to wait out another day. Our volunteer had his last day and left for his mandatory home quarantine.
Next day was 6th, a Saturday. Breakfast was a bit late as the welfare officer assigned to us had to come to us personally and had to deliver the food personally. The food was the same every morning, either iddli or dosa, a standard fish curry meals minus the fish, dinner was mostly chappati.. A few days into it, I had lost taste. But for free food, it was rather good. Lunch came in again late at around 3 and the welfare officer told us that the results and release instructions would come in any time.
I was excited but decided to watch a movie on my phone. Updated my parents about the delay. They had readied my room for the 14 day mandatory home quarantine and were eagerly waiting. Around an hour later I got a call from the Covid control centre . The person on the other end told me I had tested positive and an Ambulance would come to take me to the Parippaly medical college. Since it was out of the blue I just said I understood and hung up. It took me a few mins to process the information. I wasn’t scared or worried as I had been de sensitized to it from all the talk about it in the media and with every person I had met in the last 3 months. I finished the movie and called my dad and told him that I had tested positive and to keep the info from my mother. Unfortunately he had put the phone on loudspeaker thinking that I was calling to tell him I was coming home and mother was listening in. I told both of them not to worry and started getting ready. About 10 mins later my sister calls me and asks me why my parents were sitting teary eyed and looking at each other.
I started getting calls left and right. About half an hour later an ambulance driver called me saying that the ambulance is ready and there was another person who was also positive and was to come with me. It turned out to be the girl whom I helped the first day in carrying her luggage upstairs. I packed the dress I was wearing, left everything that was in the room and a few food packets which I opened. I had told them on the phone about the same and they told me everything that has to be disposed will be clinically disposed and everything disinfected. We were asked to get down and go to the ambulance. I helped her again with her luggage. The car keys were left in room which was dipped in sanitizer liquid. There was total gloom when we reached downstairs to the ambulance. It was just the two of us. The ambulance was blazing fast, with all its lights and siren on. In less than 5 mins we reached the hospital. We were told to wait in the ambulance till they got everything ready for us. It took a while before we were called in. If I thought the policemen at the airport kept distance, I was in for a bigger surprise. People were really keeping their distances. They had to.
The building itself was a maze, we walked through a lot of hallways to find the common enemy of ours facing us. Stairs. Unfortunately there weren’t any lifts to the Covid section and we had to climb 3 flights of stairs with our luggage. I carried her luggage first and then followed with mine. From there on, till I left the hospital, if there was a person not in a PPE kit he/she was a covid patient. Some staff in PPE kits wanted to help, but they couldn’t even barely move freely themselves. The Covid ward which I was in was in the 3rd floor. It was rather a very large room meant for 4/6 people. Ours had 4 beds. While I came in, 2 of the four beds were occupied. I chose one near to the door and facing the nurses’ station. It took a while to settle in. They gave me a disposable bed sheet and pillow cover, but no pillows. They gave a portable drawer for me to keep my stuff. A steel glass and a plate for food.
A while after a nurse came to brief me. Her main concern was whether I was stressed. She told me it was going to be alright and most of the patients who recovered left the place happy without much trouble to their health. She asked me for any symptoms or any other discomfort. I had none. She told me a few instructions like how to disinfect the common toilet before and after use, to wear my mask all the time, when they will be providing food and such stuff. A doctor later came in to check on me and told me it is going to be alright and there is no need to worry. He told me he was about to take my blood pressure and it is natural to have high tension because I have been handed over some really bad news. But surprisingly for both of us my blood pressure was as normal as it could get. So was my Oxygen saturation level. He repeated the same questions asked by the nurse. I assured him everything was ok. Then was the process of informing my relatives about my disease. Apparently the collector of our district had posted on his page including some specific details about the cases on that particular day In Kollam. If that didn’t help, a few of the residence associations in our area including mine got hold of my details somehow. Calls didn’t stop till midnight, almost every one of them consoling me and asking me not to worry. Around 9 another person, a man in his early 40s was brought in. He was in paid quarantine after coming back from Riyadh and since he was having dry cough called in a doctor to check on him who advised for a covid test which came in positive. He got the last bed in the room.
It was on the second day that I got to know my neighbours in full. The other two were from Abudabi and Doha. Both of them there for more than 10 days. We were all a bit stressed and didn’t mingle much though out my stay. But what made the stay bearable compared to the quarantine is that we could walk around the ward, at least most part of it compared to the single small room in quarantine. I could talk to other human beings, but most of our discussions were confined to guessing how we might have contracted the disease. Surprisingly, I realised the food that was to give n to us was the same food that was given to us in quarantine and it was the same food provided to all the staff at hospital too. Having the food for a few days is bearable but for more than a week was tough. It didn’t matter much because the third day of stay I found out that I had a reduced sense of smell and taste . I believe more than the disease itself it had got to do with the fact that the whole place smelled of bleaching powder which kept us safe. From the floors being washed to the waste bins and especially toilets, it was impossible to find a place without bleaching powder. The gentleman who came in last had some difficulties breathing and some issue having food. The staff stayed near him all night and he was given a saline drip. The biriyani and chicken next day brought from him didn’t help much either. He was already under treatment for hypertension and apparently that was the problem, not covid. He was ok by the 5th day, completely back on his feet. The doctors occasionally came in and checked my blood pressure and o2 saturation every day. The girl , my friend was given oxygen because her o2 levels dropped below the standard level despite her insisting that it was normal for her as she already had a heart condition. And for me, since I hardly had any symptoms I was given nothing but tablets of Vit C to boost my immunity. The only real difficulty was the toilets. There were no separate bathrooms .
The toilets with European closets had their seat cover removed owing to hygiene and the disease spreading concerns. The staff were all very cordial. Some of them even staying for 12 hrs. What is so particular about this is that they were all in PPE kits and we could see them sweating through the dress whenever they came to check on us. One funny thing throughout my hospital stay and even during my stay at home quarantine was that someone from the Police, usually a covid volunteer assigned to tracking me would call and ask me whether I am at home quarantine after my mandatory institutional quarantine. I updated them till day 3 that I am at the hospital and they would tell me they would update it in the system. From 4th day I would simply say I am not at home and then they used to tell me the importance of home quarantine and how a man of my age can’t be so irresponsible and such thigs. This went on till a few days into my home quarantine. Another funny thing is about the Arogya Sethu App. I installed it while at the hospital out of curiosity. No one had told us to do. Once I installed it, I set the radius to 2.5 kms to check the app and it showed me I had zero covid patients in my vicinity; while I was sitting in a covid hospital full of covid patients. Since I didn’t have any serious symptoms, My swab was collected on the 11th along with my blood sample. One of the people in my room left for his home next day after 16 days of stay at the hospital. They let you go only after testing negative twice. You only come to know about your results after both tests are negative and they write the discharge summary. My second swab was taken on the 13th. It was a slightly painful experience as the staff that took the sample was new and was really scared. Ensuing headache lasted almost half a day. Finally on the 15th evening, I was told that my results were negative and I was going to be discharged. They wrote me a discharge sheet advising me for 14 days of home quarantine. I bid goodbye to my fellow covidians and the staff there and travelled home in an ambulance provided by the hospital. They dropped me in front of my home. The whole process from traveling to the lodge in the ksrtc bus to quarantine and hospital stay including the ambulance ride cost me nothing. Literally zero rs.
I went into home quarantine at my home on 15th evening itself, washed all my clothes and plates and dipped them all in a big container with bleaching powder and disinfectant. It was a bit boring compared to the quarantine and hospital stay as I was confined to my own room. But it was home, and it was a welcome change from the monotonous food. They kept calling me every day to check about my wellbeing. On the 14th day of reaching home I got a release form sent to my form. The same day a doctor called me from the hospital to ask for my consent to donate plasma which I readily agreed to.
The best thing you can do is to prevention of the disease. You wear your mask and use sanitizers and exercise social distancing. You don’t travel unnecessarily. But if it gets you, face it with confidence. Corona in at least half of the cases is harmless, it hardly affects anyone seriously and even if it does, we are in a state with the best medical care. Out of the 87 people in the hospital, except for one or two, hardly anyone had symptoms let alone any other difficulties. There were heart patients, people who have had strokes and other diseases. There were people in their 70s and 80s. All of them made it through . Most of them with just vitamin C. A month after getting discharged, I got a call asking for my willingness to donate plasma to which I readily agreed too. I was taken to the hospital and a sample of my blood was taken on which a few tests were done. On a later day, they called me in for the donation. It took less than an hour and after an hour of resting. I was completely back to normal. I have now returned to my normal life albeit a bit more careful and with a lot of precautions. I was told that I would have the immunity to the disease for a few months to year but I can be a carrier. I have also been talking to people in quarantine and worried about the disease. Most of them have a a lot of unnecessary fear and worries about the disease, stemmed from media, word of mouth and whatsapp forwards which are completely unnecessary. The key is that if you get it, face it without fear and get it over with. Else masks sanitizers and good immunity will keep it at bay.
First Part Link-
Second Part Link-