As per the government regulations, the municipal corporation had expedited corona tests. As a part of this initiative, a team of medicos also arrived at the premises of our neighboring society. My son Aditya took me there to get ourselves tested.
Till that day, I had only heard and read that older people are more prone to getting contracted with Covid. Well, the same thing happened to me. My test was positive. Even though I did not show it on my face, (why should I lie?) I did feel sad. Still I remained calm.
Having an infected person at home can be dangerous as well as annoying to other people. So we both discussed and decided to get myself admitted to Aditya Birla Hospital. We both reached the hospital by car. On the way to the hospital, I kept talking to Aditya. I was optimistic that, “I’ll be back home soon.” I couldn’t read my son’s mind though.
I had read so much about Corona through the media till that day. I had also watched many videos. But I never felt that one day I would also get contracted. Now it was time to face it. There were only two ways. To be or not to be!
I had only two options. Either to gather courage and defeat Corona or surrender myself and fall prey to Yamaraj. Well I do have an earlier experience of knocking Yamaraj’s door once (2013-14). But at that time, my wife was with me. This time she was not. But it was mentally difficult to accept that she is not there anymore. Some people may feel that I was relying too much on my wife’s good deeds but can’t help it.
Aditya completed all the formalities at the admission counter. Now my path was going to be different. He was going to return home alone. We did say ‘Goodbye’ to each other. I was now crossing the main door of Covid 19 ward. A wheelchair was ready for me. A group of ward boys and nurses welcomed me. I had left the house with a bag full of two books, papers, pen and some clothes. I was attempting to stay as calm as possible. Well, now there was no use of shedding tears.
This section of the hospital was reserved for only Covid patients. In layman’s language, it was a covid hotspot. There were no relatives of the patients. And why should they endanger their own lives? The silence here was not new to me. I had experienced it earlier as well. But during the last time, many relatives had lined up to meet me although they were not allowed to. This time the story was different. Noone was going to come to see me. It was beneficial for me and them as well.
Aditya must have gone back. I entered the kingdom to Corona with the mindset of fighting with him. How was my mood at the time? I can’t say because I didn’t have that thought in my head.
My stay was in a spacious room which had just one bed. I won’t lie but there was comfort here. The meal came after some time. I ate as much as I could, took some pills and went to sleep. Things like, being in a different place, different bed, having a different blanket did not really bother me.
I woke up. It must have been dawn outside. Everything was so quiet. I went back to sleep. When I woke up again, I saw a cup of tea besides me. I did not realize when it was kept. There was some breakfast as well. The tea and breakfast had gone cold. The question that striked my mind was whether to finish the morning activities or to have breakfast? Never in my life I have had breakfast before finishing my morning rituals. Well this time I broke all the rituals and finished the breakfast first. I finished that cold tea in one sip. How did it matter anyway?
By then the nurses had arrived. They put IV on my hand to give injections. They had to struggle to find my vein and that made them put many holes in my skin. I had no other choice but to be calm. They also gave me injections in my stomach. It was really painful. I was taking too many pills. It was probably the second or third day when the nurse put a total of 19 pills on my hand. You read that right, 19 pills at a time! Well I finished them in two installments. Pills have become part of my life for the last 6-7 years now.
Every employee of the hospital was wearing a mask. That made it difficult to identify them. Some of them used to use two or three masks, one on top of the other. It must have been mentally draining for these people to serve Covid patients on a day to day basis. Plus it was not a regular ward but Covid ward. Naturally, this did have a little impact on how the patients were taken care of. There was no point in arguing with them too. I had to stay there!
To give an example, if a patient wanted a urine pot and asked for it even four or six times, there was no surety of getting it. Noone ever had an idea of the whereabouts of the lady/guy who was appointed for that task. I knew that normally this would not happen at Aditya Birla Hospital. But now I was experiencing it.
Although the ward had an AC unit, the temperature was not very cold. I could not figure out the tap system in the bathroom there. So I requested one of the guys to wipe off and clean my body with cotton. He took the easy route and did it just for the sake of it. At last I myself started wiping my body as much as I could. But even doing that was very tiring for me. Body was slowing down. We were asked to drink as much water as possible. But on the other side we were not sure of getting the urine pot on time. I didn’t even have the strength to go to loo on my own. I had made up my mind to finish my meal. But I didn’t feel like eating. If you want to live, you have to eat. But it was not happening. It was a strange situation.
There were plenty of pills, syrups, medicines, injections. It was given on time. Sometimes I didn’t even know when the doctor came and went during the day. It was difficult to identify who the doctor was due to the PPE kits and mask they were wearing. I had my mobile with me. But I didn’t have the strength to talk to anyone. People did not believe it that time and they don’t even now. That’s because we don’t think from the patient’s angle.
Aditya had requested all his friends, relatives and well-wishers, “Please don’t call the patient. I will keep everyone updated about the situation myself.” He was actually doing it too. He would get an update from the doctor and then send messages to all these relatives updating about my health. But many did not believe him. They wanted to talk to me only. They were adamant. At the same time many people were satisfied with Aditya’s such bulletins. In fact, they liked the idea.Well they did not have any other option too. It was a bg test for my boy.
Five or six days must have passed. A weird sort of depression began to surround me. I was not aware of time, day, month. There was no need for that too. What is the use of looking at days and dates in the battle of life and death? Does death allow us to die not a particular day just because it is an auspicious day?
All of a sudden, I could feel that death was approaching me. The distance between him and me was getting lesser and lesser. Why should I keep pushing my body? Even if I don’t die now, what am I going to achieve? Am I really of any use now? Many such thoughts began to take over the mind. With all these thoughts constantly running in my mind, I sent a message to Aditya, “You have done a lot. I have anyways become useless now. There is nothing left for me to do now. Let me go!” Aditya must have been awake at home.
He was expecting that his dad was going to come back soon. My message shocked him. (I found out about this later.) But he still gathered all the courage and called me.
“What have you taught us so far? You have guided at least 20-22 kids like me so far. What will they think if they come to know that you gave up? Have you ever thought about this?”
I did not expect this kind of answer from Aditya. I read my message again. After reading the message, I realized that I was wrong. Have I lost consciousness? Is my morale weak? No, no. That shouldn’t happen!”
I recovered. The gap between death and me has always been very narrow. Even now it remains the same. He must be hiding somewhere around me. Who anyway has control over him? No one has won the race between old age and death. Who am I to win it?
It was morning again. My bed was in front of a window. There was a big tree outside. A crow came and sat on its branch. I was just looking there. The mind began to wander again. “This must be waiting for my death.” As soon as my wandering mind became a little stable, I could think of a poem. I typed it on my mobile right away. I fell asleep again. I was so tired even with just a bit of overthinking. A short nap cleared my mind. Now I was not going to die. I had already said hello to death in the morning. This was my second severe illness. I told myself now there won’t be anymore chances. I must be ready now. When he comes, I would say, “Hello, Mr. Death. Let go.” Whatever I have gathered so far, leave it all here and walk the path of the unknown. How would that path be? Well, no one has ever come back to tell this.
The daily conversations with Aditya continued.
During the last five-six days, they shifted me to the general ward. It was a different world. Patients were talking to each other. We all used to be so hungry. We would get ready even before tea and breakfast. We started to put / remove the oxygen mask whenever we wanted. We started walking towards the toilet on our own. We would get tired but it was a welcome step for us. This was our great achievement. At night we were instructed to sleep with oxygen masks on. They just wanted to make sure nothing goes wrong.
In Covid, your mental and physical strength gets tested to its limit. You get completely exhausted. If you have a simple motto of ‘Eat whatever comes in front of you and keep drinking warm water.’ half the battle is won.
During these 19-20 days at the hospital, I removed the thought of ‘bathing’ from my mind. It was just not possible. The body did not have that much strength. (When I came home, I took long showers for 2-3 days. But I used to break into sweat while drying myself with the towel. I had become so weak.)
I used to think about when I will be released from this place? But I had decided not to leave until my doctor said, “You can go home.” I was sure that I had won this battle. Other patients used to get worried about the hospital bill. I was fortunate enough to not think about that. I used to interact with my son once or twice a day. He was my source of energy.
A small piece of advice from my own experience. Those who are unfortunate and get contracted , should use their own willpower. Their beloved people should keep boosting their morale. They should also find ways to raise money to pay the bill. God does not pay your bills. Your own people only have to do it. There are many who pretend to be sad. They should be forgiven generously. This helps to reduce your mental fatigue.