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COVID-19 survivors’ tales | Elderly survivors from Kerala recall their long struggle with the unforgiving virus

People should act responsibly and follow protocols strictly, says 83-year-old Shamsudeen; Thankamma, 88, says it was like a nightmare with ones eyes wide open.

May 09, 2021 06:27 pm | Updated July 06, 2022 12:37 pm IST - KANNUR/Kottayam

Thankamma G.

Thankamma G.

Last year, during the COVID-19 outbreak in Kerala, 83-year-old P.O. Shamsudeen, resident of Pattayam panchayat, was quickly moved to the hospital after he tested positive for the infection.

The octogenarian contracted the virus from his grandchildren who had returned from Dubai. Besides his age, what bothered the family and the hospital authorities was that he had already undergone two open-heart surgeries and had been operated upon for prostate. There was total panic in the family, as not just him, but 10 others in the family were also affected by the illness.

Mr. Shamsudeen said the term ‘COVID-19’ was still new and it had already created a chaos after it hit China and many countries, killing several people.

He recalled that he had to stay in the ICU for 47 days before being declared out of danger. “I could survive the virus due to the care and attention given by the State and the hospital authorities at the Kannur Medical College hospital,” he said. “The suffering and trauma that the disease brings can severely affect the patients and family members. Besides, they can also become a carrier of the disease. Hence people should act responsibly and follow COVID-19 protocols strictly.”

Today, Mr. Shamsudeen is busy creating awareness about the disease through social media and by talking to people, especially migrant workers.

The infection, however, left Thankamma. G, an 88-year-old woman from Vazhappally in Kottayam, physically and mentally drained. She suffered from fever, body pain, shortness of breath and loss of smell and taste. Safely back home after treatment at the General hospital in Changanassery, her health has still not returned to normal.

“It was like a nightmare with your eyes wide open as I was unable to take food for nearly four days. I eventually fell unconscious and was given glucose infusion for the next three days,” she recalled.

She says it is the support of her family that gave her courage to keep going. But even as she has come to terms with the enormity of the crisis she faced, Ms. Thankamma is now witnessing the suffering and the shock of her family members who are also on the road to recovery from the infection.

T.S. Yohannan, a 72-year-old farmer from Kandanad in the suburbs of Kochi, was already battling cancer, when COVID-19 struck him this year. He won the battle and regained his health, but his wife has now tested positive for the disease.

“I tested positive when I visited the Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, for treatment. After being advised a surgery, I returned to Ernakulam and got myself admitted to a private hospital. By then, my wife, who was already vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19, even as I tested negative."

“Both of us are now at home, my wife under quarantine. I feel the disease can be avoided if one adheres to the protocol, sticks to hygiene, eats good food and adopts a healthy lifestyle, while being confined home. One needs to rely on hospitals only if oxygen levels dip,” says Mr. Yohannan, who also runs a ration dealership.

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