Seven Learnings From A Bout With COVID-19

It was on the intervening night of the 6th and 7th of May 2021 that our pup Bruno decided he would sleep with us on our bed. It was as he and I struggled to find equitable space on the bed that my fever and body aches began.

As I awoke in the morning, the fever was still there and I realized that despite all my precautions and having already taken the first vaccine shot, I may have contracted COVID-19.

While my wife did not have temperature and I had initially asked her to stay out of our room, by the time the person from the testing agency arrived, she too was feeling a bit feverish. So we both got our samples taken for RT-PCR, and isolated ourselves from our children and my father.

Based upon the advice of my cousin who is a doctor, we both immediately started a course of two antibiotics along with multivitamin tablets and paracetamol.

I was hoping that maybe it was not COVID-19 and we were down with ordinary flu, so when two days later on the 9th I got my test report, I was delighted – it said Negative! I was still doing an in place dance on the bed when my wife’s report came, and it was positive.

My spirits came crashing down as I realized that my negative report was meaningless, since it was most likely wrong, and in any case, my temperature had not come down, and I had spent three days in close confinement with a COVID-19 positive patient, so was most likely positive too by now.

So that was learning number one – in case more than one person in a family is showing symptoms, combined isolation is a bad idea until the test results come in.

After a couple of days my son too developed a temperature, and all of us got tested again, but this time from another lab. We got the results from this lab the same day, and to no one’s surprise, all three of us were positive.

Just imagine – if my wife had not had any symptoms and only I had gotten tested the first time, maybe I would have put so many others at risk thinking I was not COVID-19 positive…

Learning number two was that lab results can be wrong and whenever possible, get tested from multiple labs.

COVID-19 and the required isolation bring many challenges, and when they are coupled with lockdown restrictions, life can become very difficult all of a sudden.

Planning for food for the entire family, getting medicines, purchasing essentials, all these can become complex tasks, and when you have to deal with them while under the grip of COVID-19, it can be exhausting.

Learning number three is to be prepared. If possible, link up with a neighbour for mutual support, establish a system with your chemist for door delivery of medicines, ensure you have at least two thermometers and an oximeter, keep a list of food delivery organisations, medical and diagnostic facilities etc. handy, and most importantly, have clarity on which doctor you would reach out to.

All three of us were now being looked after by a young doctor, a good friend’s son whom I had seen grow up in front of me. Currently working in a famous hospital in Mumbai, he and I used phone calls and Whatsapp for the treatment, along with a shared Google sheet that I maintained for monitoring temperature, SpO2 levels and the medication we were taking with the date and time. This helped him to keep track of our progress whenever he had the time and if required, he would call or WhatsApp.

This was learning number four – available technology can be easily leveraged by all of us to help in times like these.

The doctor had added a medicine called Ivermectin to the antibiotics and paracetamol, and by the 12th, my wife’s temperature was normal even after discontinuing the medicines. My son too saw his fever go away by the fourth day.

My temperature however refused to come down even after the course of antibiotics and Ivermectin got over, and this is when the doctor prescribed a steroid and Favipiravir.

This brought to fore the reason why I was so happy, albeit for a very short period of time,when the first RT-PCR report wrongly said I was not COVID-19 positive – my comorbidities.

As a diabetic and hypertensive for the last fifteen years, I knew that in the last couple of years, due to work and other pressures, I had allowed my sugar levels to go uncontrolled.

Now, as per the doctors orders, I had to get a host of tests done, and the results were there for all to see – fasting sugar level was nearly 500 (normal being around 140 for diabetics) and an HbA1c of around 15 (normal being 6-7).

Young as he was, my doctor did not hesitate to gently chide me saying “Uncle – did not expect such carelessness from you.”

This was learning number five – come what may, never forget to take care of your health. You never know what lies ahead and good health is essential to face it.

The upshot was that I had to immediately start insulin to bring down the sugar levels along with the other medication.

The steroid plus Favipiravir combination worked miracles and my temperature came down immediately.

I completed the course for both, and even after two days when the temperature stayed normal, I was officially free from the virus.

I guess it was sometime during my treatment that I came upon an interview with the head of pulmonary medicine and critical care of one of the most reputed hospitals in Bhubaneswar.

To my surprise, he categorically said that steroids were to be given only to patients needing oxygen support (my SpO2 levels never went below 97), that there is no role of antibiotics in treating Covid and they should not be given, and finally, there is absolutely no evidence that Favipiravir and Ivermectin have any effect and use of these drugs is not recommended by scientific society.

In other words, as per this very senior and highly respected doctor, every medicine that my family and I took was useless and unnecessary.

So what should we have done?

As children, we learnt that there is no cure for the common cold. Every time, we catch a new variant of the virus, and our body develops antibodies specific to this variant to prevent it from affecting us in the future. The same logic holds for COVID-19 too – the only medicine for COVID-19 is the development of antibodies in our bodies.

With sometimes contradictory pronouncements by various doctors in the media, it is easy to get confused and thereby hamper our treatment.

And this was the sixth lesson that I learned – COVID-19 is still an unknown entity and its treatment is still evolving. The best option is to have a trustworthy doctor and follow his/her advice without second guessing or trying self medication based upon information available on social and traditional media. If nothing else, the placebo effect at least can help in curing us.

While I was undergoing treatment, due to the fever and fatigue I was cut off from social media and friends.

As I began recovering, I was heartbroken on learning about the passing away of so many people whom I knew. Even writing about it now brings tears to my eyes, and I cannot even comprehend how their families are coping with the loss.

There appears to be no logic in who was being severely affected and who was escaping with mild or moderate symptoms. Age, health, access to resources – there appears to be no causality or link to survival. Ultimately, it all seems to boil down to luck.

This brings me to the seventh and final lesson, probably the most important one – try your level best to stay safe. Strictly maintain social distance, double mask, sanitize your hands, get vaccinated, and as far as possible, stay at home. This is a very wicked virus, and it has repeatedly shown how powerless we are in the face of its deadly attack – and yes, this is applicable even to those who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 too.

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