Around mid-June, Gautami (name changed) and her husband got the news that people dread these days – they were infected by the novel coronavirus. She and her family, residing in Anantapur with their extended family in the same vicinity, knew that with this news tough times were ahead of them.
But what Gautami and her family didn’t foresee is that she would have to be away at the RDT COVID-19 Hospital in a long fight to defeat the virus. After being infected, Gautami’s situation worsened rapidly which led her to being admitted even in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and being treated for 52 days before being finally discharged.
Today is her last day in the hospital and although she will need assisted ventilation back home to support her breathing, she cannot wait to be back with her family. Here, Gautami talks about her situation, her long battle against COVID-19 and what helped her in this fight.
How was your health in the initial period of being infected?
In mid-June, it started out with fever and within 2 days I was admitted to RDT Hospital. Within 3 days of being in the hospital I was shifted from Level 1 (for mild symptoms) to Level 2 (moderate to severe symptoms) because of breathing problem. But then my blood oxygen saturation went low and due to the deteriorating conditions, I was admitted in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for 8 days. Doctors were very co-operative and constantly monitoring my situation. After being in the ICU I was shifted back to Level 2 and today is the 52nd day of being here.
Did COVID-19 affect you mentally? How was your mental health during this time?
Initially I was filled with fear and uncertainty as to what will my situation be but as time passed, I became more confident. Even though I was in the ICU I trusted the medical team as they were all supportive and kind. They regularly checked up on me and understood what I was feeling.
After my treatment at the ICU, I was kept in isolation for some time to prevent any further infection. That was the toughest time for me. I felt nervous and sent a message to my family – “My condition is still serious but I don’t want to be isolated. I am feeling lonely and want to stay in the general ward.”
Later I was shifted back to the Level 2 ward and during my time of being here, I saw many people who were unable to sleep or even move properly because of breathing problems. Seeing that I thought to myself that my condition is way better than what most people are facing.
What are the important factors that help in battling this illness?
Listening and following doctors’ advice is important as well as following a routine and taking medicines and nutritious food on time. I also was focusing on my breathing exercises and chest physiotherapy and with the support of the staff here I am in a stable condition now. This gave me the confidence to motivate others around me. Patients with severe symptoms are living in this ward and many feel afraid about their condition but I started telling them about my journey from being critical to recovery.
Taking care of mental health is equally important as the physical health. One must not give into panic or fear as it is rather helpful to stay calm. Nurses and other staff were telling us to have courage, that we will recover soon. It really helped me because being sick and alone away from family can be isolating. You have to be confident that you can fight this illness off. That’s most important.
How did your family cope with you being in the hospital for so long?
For the first 15 days my family were extremely worried about me because my situation was quite critical. They were constantly in touch with RDT medical staff who gave them all the updates and most importantly some hope. I also kept updating them about my situation and they gave me courage.
Did you face any discrimination from the society when your case was first detected? How’s the situation now that you are at home?
When my husband and I were tested positive, my extended family discriminated against us as we live together in the same compound, though in different houses. My recovery has been long but my husband was discharged within 15 days and shortly after it somebody falsely complained to the government helpline that my husband was outside in spite of being a COVID patient when he had gone for groceries. The government, having all details, assured them that he had recovered and there’s nothing to worry. That was upsetting for all of us.
Though I need assistance with breathing, I am in good condition. I do my chores and I am spending quality time with my family. It is freeing to be back.
Pictures and Text: Felita Viegas