Emotional support helped win battle, say COVID-19 Survivors

Bindu Shajan Perappadan

April 18 2020

Mental well-being is the key to fight the disease, says Venkat Raghav; The COVID-19 fever doesn’t kill you but the guilt can, says Rohit Dutta.

The high fever, mind numbing tiredness and the constant positive mental/emotional enforcement from the medical staff — that is what most COVID-19 survivors, across India, remember of their battle against the virus which first emerged in China and now has infected over 2 lakh persons worldwide and killed over a lakh in under five months.

“We can overcome, that is the spirit with which I fought this virus this past month,’’ says Bengaluru-based professional, Venkat Raghav, 50, who speculates that he may have picked up the virus while on his business trip to the U.S. in March.

Also read: COVID-19 lessons on humility and how it begets health

“I developed high fever and by then the news about the virus was available and the Indian government too was disseminating information. So I decided it was best not to take chances and I isolated myself from the family on my return. Later, at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) it was confirmed that I had high virus load following which I got admitted to the hospital and a day later, I was found COVID-19 positive,’’ he said.

Now cured and at home, Mr. Venkat claims his greatest achievement through it all was that he was able to keep his immediate family – wife and two teenaged children uninfected. “I didn’t cause any pain to anyone,’’ he says.

Recalling his treatment and the support he got from the hospital staff, he says that while the virus takes a heavy toll on the body, mental well-being is the key to fight the disease. “I was in isolation, the fever rarely comes below 101.4° F and the weakness and pain is unexplainable. I pulled through because everyone around me stayed very positive.”

Also read: When films become guidebooks to surviving a pandemic

“The COVID-19 fever doesn’t kill you but the guilt can,” confides Rohit Dutta, who is among Delhi-NCR’s first COVID-19 patients in early March.

“I had come back from a trip abroad and had also organised a small get-together of close family and friends. Later I got to know that I am positive. I was admitted to Safdarjug Hospital and believe me the guilt that I could have infected children…never really left me. Who would want to harm any child knowingly? It is under this frame of mind that one day while during treatment I got a call from some lady who abused me for bringing in COVID-19 to North India. I was shaken. I refused to take calls from unknown numbers after that,” he says.

Now a month after the ordeal, Mr. Dutta, a businessman, is back with his family and says that he is relaxing.

Staying positive

“COVID-19 forces you to re-think and re-look at life. Industries are closed and we feel that things may take a while to come back to normal. But what this virus has taught me is to stay positive. The body may give up but the mind has to stay strong. Safdarjung Hospital staff became my family. Each staff there cared for me as if I was their family member,” he says.

Abusive calls

Besides the brickbats on social media and abusive calls, Mr. Dutta says his neighbours were the family’s pillar of support. “Awareness and information are key against COVID-19. Fear is a huge roadblock. Since we know nothing of the virus, our best bet is to fight it with all we have,” he says.

Mr. Dutta says that his immediate neighbours never expressed any fear, despite being in such close proximity.

Also read: Lockdown breakdown

“In fact, the first day I came out of my home quarantine was when our Prime Minister had asked us to light candles against COVID-19. I came to the balcony and people just started clapping. I could feel their joy and love and this is the biggest vaccination against any disease.

Together I am sure we can find a cure to the disease,” he said.

A medical staff himself Robin Thomas from Kottayam, Kerala, too says that the fight against the pandemic is also about staying positive.

7 infected in family

“Seven persons in my immediate family, including me, were infected. The only silver lining being that my 4-year-old has tested negative so far. The 21-day hospital stay was the best and worst days of my life,” he says.

“The first week in quarantine with my wife and child, I thought we would have to say goodbye to our child. We were looking for jobs (both he and his wife are medical professionals) in Italy and never thought that we would hit such a huge roadblock,” he says.

Mr. Thomas and his wife Reena tested positive after her parents and brother came to Kerala from Italy in March and tested positive.

“Social media made our life hell. Her parents were asymptomatic when they came to India…it is not like we deliberately brought this virus here. We were even called agents of death! But the State government, my doctors spoke and counselled us. We are all well today, not just because of the medical care that we got but also because of the mental and emotional strength that we received from the medical staff and State government. The Health Minister was in regular touch with the hospital authorities and spoke to us a few times…it felt like a mother was enquiring about her family,” he says.

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