Who is to be blamed? China and its Wuhan lab or myself for failing to stop the virus? Personally, I would not curse myself though, as I have meticulously followed all advisories, and painstakingly adhered to preventive norms since the onset of the pandemic; there could not have been better results even if the whole effort were repeated. Who else then? Had the crucial period of the months after the first wave been utilised for a vaccination drive on a war-footing, the situation could have been much different. Also, a precious opportunity to develop infrastructure to tackle another wave was consciously lost, as the absence of oxygen supply and hospital beds became the hallmark of the second wave.
Four days of azithromycin antibiotics and paracetamol failed to douse my fever. Fatigue was an understatement to describe the difficulty I had in walking even a step. When the result of my test came, confirming Covid positive, my blood-oxygen saturation was in the 80s. I was then expectedly advised by the doctor to get admitted in a hospital as the chest infection could result in complications. We went to a hospital and were asked to wait for a bed to be vacant. So many patients were bought in, all with one symptom— difficulty in breathing. Till then, I had only read in papers and seen on television Covid patients struggling to get oxygen. But the actual experience was frightening, and outrageous, to even think that after so many months, we could not have enough seats for the sick and enough oxygen condensers and ventilators.
The news of bodies being discarded unceremoniously, in rivers and on riverbanks, is an inadmissible pain Covid patients endured psychologically, in addition to the physical sufferings they underwent with death appearing nearer, both in dreams and reality. Among the many thoughts, the questions of will I be accorded a decent burial and will my loved ones be able to mourn over my body are the two uncomfortable questions that do not escape the mind of affected patients.
On the third day of hospitalisation, as I was moved to a Covid-care ICU, I saw a couple of patients whose condition was much more serious. The patient just opposite me failed to continue his fight against the virus even as doctors and nurses tried everything to save him. The unfortunate event all unfurled in front of my eyes—the patient gasping for breath and eventually slipping into an uneasy quietness, the doctor commanding his colleagues and nurses to perform many procedures. Everyone in the ICU was silent for a while. Then the doctors turned to another patient with the same vigour and commitment to save other lives. And they did save many. And it is in this unfortunate trivial that the efforts of the healthcare staff stood out as exemplary human commitment beyond the call of duty. We owe a lot to them.
As my situation improved and my blood-oxygen concentration steadily remained at 93 above for two days, I was advised by my doctor to recuperate at home to make way for patients with more severe complications. The only concern in my case was the shooting up of my blood sugar level, in one instance rising to above 600 as a result of steroids administration. It is ironic because Covid treatment requires steroids but they increase blood sugar level which worsens the disease, and hence the requirement for more steroid treatment. It is a dangerous cycle and one that makes diabetes management a key component for Covid care of patients treated with steroids.
The need to eat healthy and energy-enriching foods post-Covid is punctuated with the requirement to manage blood sugar levels. Therefore the need to watch out for foods containing sugar and carbs. To achieve favourable readings, I have avoided all sugar-containing foods albeit salivating with thoughts to relish just a cup of tea with biscuits. Without steroids though, the blood sugar level tends to improve in a week with a proper diet. Regular management will, however, be required for a while and the situation could be more tasking for aged individuals.
The headache for Covid-affected individuals does not end here. The black fungus has mercilessly preyed on recovering Covid patients and the state of Rajasthan has declared a pandemic. And to make matters worse, there is now a white fungus in fray as a scary disease to watch out for Covid recovering patients. The question now is how well are we prepared and most importantly to what extent?
Covid recovering patients need psychological support from extrinsic factors as well as from within. The belief that the worst is over is important to rebuild the mind and body. While efforts of personal emotional-boost is an individual concern, there is no better source of hope for the affected than improving our medical infrastructures that will result in increased Covid recovery rates and their full recovery thereon. Positivity cannot be mustered by mere thoughts. It has to be seen, heard, and witnessed. The government should thus have a system in place for the Covid recovering.
As all record tumbles in the second wave and lockdowns are enforced yet again throughout the country, one hopes that the required lessons are learned, at least now. Eventually, lockdowns will be relaxed and we will have to start working again. And with it will come the responsibility of the government to focus on the all-important duty of securing the lives of its citizens. Already talks of third wave having the potential to affect children have been reported. Unvaccinated and oxygen-deprived, thousands have died in the second wave.
What awaits us in the third will surely have uncertainties for which we as mankind have to research, develop and strive towards finding a solution. But what is highly unfortunate would be to have the same known mistakes robbing us of precious lives again.
(T.S. Haokip is a freelance writer and author. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of Outlook Magazine.)