From the time coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 virus) officially hit India sometime since January 30, 2020, when the first case was confirmed in Kerala’s Thrissur district in a student who had returned home for a vacation from Wuhan University in China, I’ve always taken the virus seriously, never ever underestimating its grip on us.
Not only did I never venture outside (I’ve a WFH flexibility), unlike multitude of Indians, but I also ensured that my family stringently adhered to all COVID-appropriate behavior – be it social distancing, washing hands and laboriously avoiding direct contact with other family members, especially the elderly, outside my home circle.
Little did I know that I’d myself catch the virus one day, through my own family member, who happens to be a doctor – a brave warrior who’s at the forefront of this fight against the deadly virus.
It all started sometime on the morning of April 16 2021 (the second wave had already struck India), when I woke up to searing body ache, accentuated by a massive headache and high temperature. Acutely aware that the symptoms could be that of COVID-19, I began searching for answers as to how I might have gotten the symptoms, only to be told by my family member (a doctor), on a poignant phone call, that she had tested positive for Covid-19, and had self-admitted herself to the hospital for treatment.
On hearing the news that a loved family member had gotten coronavirus, despite all the rigorous precautions we had taken as a family, my whole world came crashing down around me. I knew I could be infected too, and so could the kids and elderly family members (fortunately, they’d gotten two doses of the vaccine by that time).
The next day, April 17 2021, I lost my sense of taste and smell (otherwise known as anosmia), pretty much confirming my hypothesis I was COVID-positive. And often, this dysfunction is the only COVID-19 symptom that people register, suggesting that the phenomenon is separate from virus-induced nasal congestion.
The virus took a full four-week beating on my body. I went to some very dark places, especially at night. Evenings would bring on an eerie melancholy, which was particularly odd for me, being a tough cookie and all.
I was fighting constant body aches. Looking back, my sense of time feels warped and inexact. Some days crawled by tortuously slowly, while others disappeared unaccounted for in my memory, lost in the wash of emotion, sleep, and illness.
I was suddenly cut off from my purpose, and even isolated from my own family (I was self-isolating), left to experience the virus first-hand all by myself, like so many others. Under the influence of coronavirus, days felt chock-a-block, as I was unable to stave off the sense of dread and isolation I felt about what was to come.
My family and I began sleeping in separate bedrooms and using separate bathrooms. They did their best to bring me food, without making too much contact. The food didn’t matter much to me because I couldn’t taste or smell anything anyway. Along with my appetite, my energy was also zapped. I slept easily 10-12 hours at night, waking many mornings soaking wet, having sweat through the sheets.
Over four weeks, the fever, chills, and aches would sometimes leave just long enough to fool me into thinking I was finally recovering. Then they would revisit me with a vengeance. I never knew when it would end. It was relentless, scary, and lonely.
My version of coronavirus did not take suffocating hold of my lungs the way it has with millions of other patients, sending many of them to the ICU. Even though I struggled to breathe sometimes, I kept checking my oxygen saturation level 3-4 times a day with the help of an oximeter (a must-have for every family these days). Although my body constantly gave me the middle finger, my lungs did not. I know hospitals are overwhelmed with patients — and nurses and doctors have been working tirelessly doing hero’s work. I am glad I did not add to their stress, and self-isolated at home (per medical experts, 85% of patients w/ MILD COVID-19 symptoms can self-isolate at home).
When I was sick and my body came to a screeching halt, I stopped doing and started really feeling. In the quiet of my quarantine, I was able to more purely isolate my gratitude and my values. And one of those values is connection, and I experienced the quintessence of it with my family.
Staying vulnerable was a risk worth taking during my sickness, because it taught me a valuable lesson of experiencing connection.
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The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for a physician’s advice. Please consult your treating physician for more details.