Nearly two weeks after battling the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease in hospital and currently home for a week, Bengaluru-based IT professional Venkat Raghava wants to stress on the mental health aspect of combating the illness.
The 50-year-old had tested positive on March 9 after his return from the United States via London and was treated at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) in Bengaluru. He was allowed to return home on March 23 after he tested negative twice, as per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) protocol.
Speaking to TNM, Venkat says, “When you are in isolation, you have to prepare yourself to survive on your own and your frame of mind is the most important part. There is consistent fever but that may not kill you. You have to be mentally ready for isolation and you need to call for help as and when required. This is not like regular hospital wards, there won't be anybody who will come to you (physically). Thankfully your phone is your only saviour. And once panic kicks in, you yourself speculate about what will happen to you. And this is when people slip and I was at that point of slipping myself.”
Venkat says that in addition to a spiritual guru whom he follows, text messages from his wife were saviours.
“My wife wrote to me 'I do not want to lose you’. She said ‘I don't want to be alone and I want you back'. These are the things that kept me going,” he says.
Apart from doctors treating him for fever and subsequent complications due to COVID-19, Venkat was also cared for by psychiatrists from The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) to deal with the stress associated with the disease. During his hospitalisation, despite having no diabetes, his blood sugar had shot up abnormally and subsequently, he suffered from stomach upsets as well.
“I was not very worried about the fever as I was constantly watching it and controlling the fever with the medications the doctor gave. The doctors were vigilant of any chest congestion and were judiciously administering antibiotics. Even the doctors from NIMHANS were very cautious to give me medicine for my stress. They feared it might worsen the chest condition. All these have contributed to my healing. I can only thank these people because they used their experience very well and controlled my varying conditions,” he says, as he recounts his journey to recovery.
Venkat narrates that once he landed in Los Angeles, he had a fever which shot up and this forced him to cut short his trip and cancel his appointments subsequently. He fears that he picked up the infection at the Heathrow Airport in London while returning to Bengaluru.
“I landed at the airport on March 8 and asked to be tested. In my declaration form, I declared that I had fever and I told the airport officials that I wanted to be tested and did not want to meet my family. And at that time, they were not equipped nor did they have any test kit. In fact, I remember contacting the airport authorities and telling them 'what you are doing is not right'. Now I hear that they are doing it well,” Venkat recalls.
The same day he went to get tested at RGICD and returned home. Fearing that he contracted the disease, he decided to isolate himself and chose to sleep on another floor of the house rather than sleeping on the ground floor with his wife and daughter.
“Things were very professional from the beginning; they screened me and because of my travel history, they took my test and the next afternoon, I got a call from the RGICD telling me that my virus load was very high. All this while at home, I made sure that my daughter and wife never came near me,” he says.
Stressing further on social distancing, he adds, “I am extremely happy that in the entire process, I never infected anybody. I consider this my achievement even though I could not avoid the fever. I want to spread positivity. You can isolate yourself, you can get through the fever and there are positions where you can slip so you have to keep your mind clear.”
Recounting his experience at the hospital, Venkat says, “The room was set up well and it was very airy.” Up to March 19, Venkat had constant high fever which resulted in boils in his mouth for some time and he could not consume food orally and he had to rely on intravenous (IV) fluids.
“I had days of gruelling fever and this was relentless. Owing to the medicines, I was sleeping all day and was awake mostly in the night and the fever would be back again at 3- 4 am,” he says.
Apart from his recovery, Venkat is also thankful to the Health Department for allowing his daughter to write her 10th standard exams even though her school had initially refused permission and asked her to write supplementary exams.