The year 2020 will go down in history beyond a doubt. It seemed as if 2021 would be less historic but if one’s a true student of history, anything and everything that ever happened qualifies as an event worth remembering. However, few events remain so significant that they become historic. 2021 will be one such year in my life. On the 17th of April, I woke up with a fever. I can recall the day rather vividly. Since it was the era of the SARS-CoV2, one had to assume the risk that they might have contracted the virus, and with it the illness that ensues. With fear, I went to the kitchen to check the container of coffee. I could smell the coffee. Since we were told that the symptoms of covid were a loss of smell, I assumed I was fortunate enough to not get infected. Eventually, I’d be proven wrong.
It started with severe abdominal cramps that day, enough to make me wail in pain. I’d been through abdominal cramps due to a lack of food before, so I quickly cooked some rice to have it with curd. The pain subsided, but there was fatigue like I had never known before. This continued over until the evening, when my father told me it was very likely that the illness was covid. I must admit in candour here, that I was in a form of denial that it could be covid as I had taken precautions whenever I went out. I had to go out of the house thanks to the requirements of my employment. The very next day, which was the Sunday, I’d gone out to get the medicines. For the reader wondering why I had to go out myself, here’s the critical element of my 14 days with covid. I live alone in a small apartment in Bangalore, away from parents and family. For all moments I wished I had someone to help me through things, I was also glad that nobody was witness to some moments of struggling with covid as the illness progressed a little over the coming few days.
As if by magic, on day 3, there was no fever and I felt perfectly alright and normal except for one thing. The skin on my chest felt more sensitive than I could ever recall. It developed into a chest pain the day after. Slowly, but steadily, I could feel the illness. On day 4, I began coughing. In the meantime, my fiancée-to-be, was trying everything she could to ensure I had food to eat. Good Samaritans everywhere were offering food for people who had covid, who only had to pay for the delivery charge. She was able to find someone for me, and my food requirements were covered. No matter how hard I tried, it took a lot of time to gather the energy to get up and eat on time to take the medicines on time. As the days progressed, my ability to breathe got dramatically affected. This was the problem. If I breathed in air like I did normally, it would create some irritation and I’d cough. On day 6, after I woke up, began the most challenging 30 minutes of my life. I had let out a cough. The human body tends to breathe in air after coughing to compensate for pushing out air while coughing. I distinctly recall coughing till there was no air left in my lungs and then as I breathed in as much air, I began coughing again in the same pattern. This went on for a while where I was confused about what to do, and I had to do the most abnormal thing to my system to control things. I halted my breath after the cough, holding my breath for a second or two, and then sat down to rapidly breathe in short breaths. It took me quite some time to control the coughing and breathing that I was doing. Involuntary processes being controlled shows exactly how much our body does without our knowing it.
Surprisingly, despite all this going on, my blood oxygen levels remained in the healthy range. A doctor recommended I get a blood test & a CT scan done. The CT scan showed that I had a moderate level of infection on a scale ranging between mild, moderate & harsh. The virus had infected my lungs, though it wasn’t a high level of infection. For the reader wondering, the CT score I had was 18/40. That’s a number on the higher side, needing oxygen support to maintain healthy oxygen levels in the blood. Fortunately, I did not need more than home quarantine all through this period. I had my CT scan on day 8. The same day, my parents and my fiancée-to-be’s family thought it would be a good idea if I were under some level of medical attention. The consensus was to find out a hotel accommodation that was under the purview of a hospital. And so began the next phase of my quarantine.
I had reached Sparsh Hospital near Jigani, for my initial medical assessment. From there, I was taken to a hotel in Electronic City. It was a business hotel called “Zone” by the Park. It was a great struggle to get to the room as I had to carry some luggage. I distinctly remember walking so slow that I had just one thought – “When will this get over?”. I could not walk faster than such a slow pace because if I tried to, my breathing would get extremely short & rapid, which meant coughing my innards out. I must warn the reader about a little graphic description here. While I was still in home, I had managed to hold the phlegm that came out during the coughing process to spit it out in the washroom. When I did that, I got horrified. It was red in colour. As I’d find out later from the doctor at the hotel, the phlegm gets so hard and abrasive, that it ruptures the capillaries of the windpipe and there’s blood in it while it comes out.
What was really surprising is the rate at which the symptoms began to cease as the days progressed. One fine day, I’d felt no more chest pain. One fine day, the rapid breathing stopped, and I could breathe in very close to pre-infection days. Just like that, the fever ceased too. All my life, any infection that took place would subside in a gradual fashion. With covid, it was very different. The infection was gradual but getting out of it felt very sudden. I’d often joked to my family that it felt like getting beaten up in an ally where the bully left after he thought the job was done. The only question here was what job the virus had finished. As it turns out, it left some lung inflammation. The day I got discharged, I still couldn’t breathe normally. I could breathe better than before, but with caveats. One good news though – blood in the cough had ceased. That was good enough news to start the recovery process.
This part where my lungs were on the recovery path feels like a normal illness. The recovery has been gradual. Everything about covid was confusing. The 2 scariest things during covid were brushing my teeth & taking a shower. For some weird reason, I’d run out of breath while taking a shower. I didn’t realise the extent of how much I held my breath while taking a bath. In the other activity, I’d constantly feel like I was about to vomit something out and it usually was what kickstarted the coughing sessions on the few days of breathing difficulty.
Post discharge, I have almost fully recovered. There’s a little bit of the remnants from the lung inflammation seen from the CT scan that’s healed almost fully, with a little bit left to go. What surprises me is the strength I manage to muster when needed, as if there’s a reservoir nearby. Dealing with covid living alone was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is because many of my family members did not have to see or hear the coughing, which would sound quite disturbing and there would be blood coming out. The curse part is not being with the family that supported me through this time. All in all, the good definitely outweighs the bad here, and I consider the blessing over the curse on any day.
It was only after things got over when there was a chance to interact with others who’d contracted the disease that I realised my level of infection was harsher than mild and was well into the moderate band of getting affected. What’s weird is people with similar CT scores to what I got diagnosed with were hospitalised while I got out relatively unscathed. Though there’s a large element of luck here, I also have to give credit to the extensive cardiovascular workout I had gotten into via boxing. For someone on the borders of diabetes in October 2020, to be in a state of health good enough to not let covid destroy my lungs in a few months, I think there were some good decisions made that had saved me from the hell of a moderate level infection. And in hindsight, I am glad I took those decisions.