By Priyabrata Chowdhury
It all started with my wife feeling my temple on June 14 evening and finding it unusually warm. A subsequent temperature reading affirmed what she had feared. I was burning up. Over the next few days, I sensed redness in my eyes and experienced a slight ache around the shoulder pads and knees. Strangely enough, as it seemed at the time to a couple not schooled in Covid symptoms yet, my body temperature, which remained well within the normal range for the better part of the day, tended to inch up after evening. By night, I experienced a distinct throbbing of the forehead, nausea and trouble swallowing food at dinner time. As I learned later, those were the first few definitive symptoms of Covid-19.
I wasn’t tested till I landed at the hospital, which was on the eighth day from the time I started showing the symptoms. Though I was in my senses , I have no more than a fuzzy recollection of the elaborate medical procedure that I was put through when I was wheeled into the ICU. Though disoriented and barely able to find speech at the time, I do remember a masked man, draped in a PPE kit, asking me to stick my tongue out and hold my breath for a few seconds. As I learnt later, he took my swab sample for a Covid test. I was tested once again, closer to my discharge date. After the test, which came back negative, I was put on a cocktail of pills, saline drip and a drug-induced sleep enabled with oxygen support.
Even before I started showing the symptoms, I had been taking vitamin C and D supplements as well as zinc tablets to boost my immunity. I inhaled warm vapour and also gurgled with Betadine. However, that was before I was lulled into believing that I may have caught a seasonal flu which will pass in a few days. I stopped taking the immunity boosters altogether and fell back on some homoeopathic medicines, which later turned out to be a blunderous move as it only enabled the virus to entrench itself deeper into my system.
The contagion, as it took root deep inside of me, put me through this phase where I struggled for words and simply sat or lay around with a wan face. I had lost appetite and turned away food as they felt tasteless in my mouth.
As for the neighbours, they were of little or no help on the day an ambulance drove up to my place. The driver and his aide asked for more hands to lift me down on a stretcher from the third floor as I barely had enough strength in me to do the stairs. Even as my wife knocked on my neighbours doors and urged for help, they turned away or refused to answer the door. However, as I somehow made it downstairs and sat upright on the stretcher waiting to be carried into the ambulance, out popped a few curious heads at balconies around me, eyeing me in a not-so-neighbourly fashion.
It was, perhaps, on my fourth day at the hospital that I started feeling better. I could feel my strength coming back, regained my appetite and, in perhaps the first time in many days, managed to speak audibly.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and my experience, though scary in parts, taught me never to take my health for granted. The virus took me to a deep, dark hole and I feel utterly blessed to have made it back safe and sound.
My wife and in-laws were easily my biggest source of strength and support through this tough phase. I feel I wouldn’t be home safe had she not risked it all to do all the running around and get me to a hospital at a time when I was sinking alarmingly while the people whom I knew to be my own, my family, had chosen to look away. I fed off her strength and fortitude on the way to winning my battle against Corona.
Speaking from my experience, I have just this to offer in the way of advice – take all necessary protection and get yourself tested at the slightest hint of a symptom. Timely detection and diagnosis is clearly the difference between winning or losing the Covid battle.
Priyabrata is a journalist and a wary husband. He is also a Covid survivor.