The slow and frustrating journey of recovering from COVID-19

Unlike in the case of most diseases, recovery is not a linear process

Updated - September 25, 2020 01:02 am IST

Published - September 25, 2020 12:15 am IST

People stand in a queue as a healthcare worker checks the temperature of a resident during a medical campaign for the coronavirus disease in Mumbai.

People stand in a queue as a healthcare worker checks the temperature of a resident during a medical campaign for the coronavirus disease in Mumbai.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, I stocked up on sanitisers, N95 masks, and stayed at home during the lockdown. Yet, I somehow managed to contract the virus.

Thanks to my paranoia, I visited the hospital the minute I developed a cough and a temperature. But not even when I was advised to take the dreaded RT-PCR test did I fear the worst; after all, I had followed all the precautions to a tee.

Also read | Recovery from COVID-19 can be a struggle

Unfortunately, when the results came, I suddenly found myself in a hospital bed, which was to be my home for the next 15 days. The only contact I had with the outside world was with healthcare workers in personal protective equipment who attached an IV drip to my left hand and communicated with me in sign language.

I was riddled with anxiety about my family who now had to get checked. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I received the news of their negative results a couple of days later.

The symptoms of COVID-19 hit me hard. I experienced intense fatigue; it felt like a freight train had hit me. I had frequent headaches that were like “thunderclaps inside the brain”, as The New York Times aptly described them. I had lung inflammation despite not being a smoker, and a persistent cough.

It is important to understand that unlike most diseases, recovering from COVID-19 is not a linear process. There were days when I woke up feeling perfectly normal, but within a few hours, I would be overcome by breathlessness and in need of an oxygen mask. I took 30 tablets a day, multiple blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, and lots of intravenous fluids.

Also read | Recovered COVID-19 patients facing difficulties

However, it isn’t so much the physical symptoms as the the isolation which gets to you. With nobody allowed to visit and with no one to talk to (even doctors communicated only via video calls), the experience of being stuck in a room all alone was overwhelming.

After two weeks, the doctors felt I was stable enough to leave (though I still hadn’t tested negative). Since then, I have been in home quarantine, picking up plates of food that my parents leave outside my bedroom door, and checking my blood oxygen levels on the pulse oximeter. A few days earlier, despite my symptoms reducing drastically, I still tested positive, which only shows that recovery can be a slow and frustrating journey.

However, I have to say I am privileged and lucky: I got tested and got access to a hospital bed immediately after exhibiting symptoms, I have a comfortable room at home with family to help, and a job that allows me to work from home. Since I am a film correspondent, I get paid to review and keep track of all the movies and shows online. Watching episodes of Friends and The Office on Netflix as well as Vadivelu comedy scenes on YouTube was a great distraction for me during my time in hospital. I also recited lists of my favourite movies and football clubs every time the anxiety got too severe. Meanwhile, thousands of fellow journalists continue to brave the pandemic on a daily basis, reporting and going to office.

Every case of COVID-19 is unique. I read about a teenager who tested positive four times in a row, and a 90-year-old who have fought the virus in just a week. The virus doesn’t always follow a pattern. I still don’t know how I got infected, but my only advice would be this: stay at home as much as possible.

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