A journey of recovery from COVID-19
Dr Suresh Sankar, Vice President, Clinical Affairs, NephroPlus narrates his journey of recovery from COVID
Since March, it was never a question of "Will I get it" but more "When might I get it". Most doctors, like me, were saying that to themselves. So, living self-vigilant of any minor deviation of health on the evening of June 4th when I started to feel warm with a gritty throat, I paused and wondered. The next morning, after my work out I did not feel energetic enough; getting myself to move seemed like a burden. I told myself "That's it, I am isolating in a room". I told my son, who is toiling through online education resentfully to stay out of my room. I canceled the clinic and told my team I am not coming in. When my wife returned, I let the clinician in me do the talking.
Taking it objectively, we went about planning for an impending 14day lockdown. Unlike the nation, we had time because the right time to test is at least 4 days from symptom onset which would come on June 8th. So, we spent the weekend executing a plan where my role was to do nothing. I started a living a single person, single room household, more of it later. I went through phases of feeling warm and mild myalgia over the next 48 hours. On June 8th (day 4) I had a pleasant drive to the lab mid-day by late that night I learned that I tested positive. It was not much of a shock, as much as confirming what we doubted.
On June 9th, our first task was to inform our housing association as responsible members. Our housing community had done an impressive job in striking the right balance between community safety and individual dignity and family needs. Their response was reassuring and supportive. By now I was into the 4th day in the room, I had to make a plan for another 12 days at least. For the simple reason that if you are compliant with the law, I am to be isolated and my family will be quarantined for 14 days from June 8th, the day of testing up to June 22nd. Next step, implementing the plan. I had already done it for 3 days and it wasn’t entirely new.
What were the parts? Mind, medical monitoring, self needs and of course tackling our families emotional roller coaster. I would say it is the mind first. We are all different, but my coping strategy was to be in that minute and nothing else. I wasn't going to let the knowledge base create hypothetical scenarios and consequences get over me. I got myself into a routine, fairly quick. A chair next to a single-window in my room always gave me a feeling of seeing the world: I watched early morning walkers, kids playing shuttle and our apartment maintenance and housekeeping going out their jobs.
Sashi Tharoor's "Why I am a Hindu" was a great read for a naive Hindu like me. That book was one completed task for me during the isolation time. My illness was mild with fever and body ache at a random cycle from June 5th to June 11th. I did not experience many chills and high-grade fever. I would sleep through these episodes with a Paracetamol which were mostly once a day. The rest of the time in a say was between a TV sitcom on Amazon prime, half to an hour of the movie. Going back to single man household experience, washing your clothes, your vessels, and the toilet was part of day's chores. Kept you employed and tired you but taught you to be self-sufficient. There was always the customary chat with family before I hit the bed at night by 10 30. The distance was 3 meters, but we could see each other.
On Jun 10th, my wife and son testing negative was a huge relief. Every day was a cycle gone through in steps with no speculative thoughts of how the next one would be but the clinician in you was telling me that a longer period of feeling well is the good clinical trend. My nutritious food was dropped off on to my plate thrice a day: aligned with the food pyramid, served with a tremendous amount of love and care and sound infection control. On June 10th the communication strategy implementation had to be rolled out: informing and supporting immediate family members. I guess for all of them the fact my wife and I were doctors, resilient and we would wade through it could be reassuring but the inability to reach out and be with us was frustrating. Video conference calls with them and my wife outside the room were the order of the day.
By week 2, fever episodes were not there, my wife’s nerves had calmed and my son became more relaxed. It was a lighter ride. Sharing it with my college and school friends in our social media triggered an avalanche of response that kept an entire day in phone conversations. In that context, it was an extremely reassuring experience. By June 17th I was doing conference calls for work, taking some random calls from patients. Over the next 2 days, I was well enough to do a long meeting call and teleconsultations.
June 22nd was the day of release and the health department removed the barricade mid and day. It took some time for the reality to sink in. Late that evening as I took a walk around our community, I told myself that the virus was merciful, that it licked my body but left my organs alone. Yet there was sadness for it had done so many individuals and families worldwide. At the end of it, it appeared like the roll the dice, God's will, and the wishes and prayers of families and friends and the random, mysterious behavior of Sars-Cov-2. Why did I have a mild one? Why I did not have to stay in the hospital? Why my family members did not test positive?. I don't think we have scientific answers now but I do sincerely hope that we get there soon and make the world a safer place for all of us.