The two words all of us have hoped we will not have to hear.
The two words that my husband uttered when I least expected it.
He had been quite ill the previous week. But the symptoms were of a regular viral fever, not of COVID.
I was dismissive when his boss told him to get the PCR test done. I'd told everyone it was not COVID.
It couldn't be.
Yet, it was.
"Are you sure?", I asked running over the symptoms all over again.
For a few moments, everything went blank, then the brain kicked in. His temperature which had been really high was now under control. He'd had his first proper meal an hour back. He was getting better.
But what the kids and me?
Since none of us had worn space suits, we were all at risk. We had all handled the microwave, the fridge and the TV remote. Though he'd been confined to his room most of the previous week, I had spent the whole weekend with him.
It was a scary thought.
"I don't think we should tell the kids."
"Of course we need to." I'd always involved them in decisions concerning all of us.
They were surprisingly stoic- "Papa is better, isn't he?"
And had the facts - "We shouldn't panic. Most cases don't involve hospitalisation."
What we chose not to discuss was that I had been running fever for two days, and both of them had been coughing since morning.
I got in touch with a doctor friend who gave invaluable advice. "Assume that all of you are positive. Track the vitals and treat the symptoms."
Luckily I'd already bought an oxymeter, and we had an extra thermometer, so all I had to do was to create a google spreadsheet to track the vitals. The kids were given access to the sheet with strict orders to keep it updated if I wasn't well enough to do so.
ATM cards and credit cards with PINs were also given to the kids for safe keeping, though I am not sure why.
And with that began the official quarantine. Inform the apartment complex. Ask the househelp not to come. Tell people at work. Dodge questions from relatives.
I'd been in the middle of putting a presentation together when the report came. Finishing that, and making a pitch to a potential partner was an effort of will. But the distance it required also put things in perspective; you just had to take it a minute at a time.
"One day at a time", became the motto when our neighbours were acting obnoxious. Every mealtime, every load of laundry, every pile of dishes became monumental when none of you was feeling well.
Small things were difficult- like teaching the dog to pee on a pile of newspapers.
But we really couldn't complain, because while we were all slightly unwell, our symptoms were mild.
While the medical response in Hyderabad had virtually collapsed, thankfully we didn't need it.
And the only thing we hoped for was that we would continue to not need it.
Two days after the test result, my husband's temperature returned to normal, and he complained that the adrakwali chai had too much ginger.
The kids had both stopped coughing, and my younger one and I were on a regular dose of paracetamol to keep out temperature in check.
We were having Vitamin C and Zinc tablets, and ensuring adequate fluid intake. And we ignored all the people who suggested homeopathic remedies and HCQ.
Eating healthy was not always possible because we depended on Swiggy to provide one meal every day. We just did our best.
His symptoms had gone by the time the three of us got our tests done. And in the three days it took for the results to come, my symptoms had worsened.
Very strangely, all three of us tested negative; it is too much of a coincidence that we all fell ill with a different virus at the same time.
We continued to assume we were every combination of positive and negative.
We kept tracking our vitals.
We tried to be in different rooms, wore masks when we came near each other. We washed our hands before touching things others might later touch, and sanitised surfaces.
And we laughed often at the irony of SARS CoV 2 entering our home when we were all so careful about masking, sanitising and physical distancing in public.
Till I found an article saying that amount of exposure could determine severity of infection, which justified masking up.
Right now, I am the only one who's ill. Fever, body ache, lethargy. But even I am getting better every day. In three days the official quarantine will be over. We would be deemed recovered. Life can go back to what we called 'normalcy' before the virus entered our lives.
If I could summarise our experience, it would be just this-
- arm yourself with facts so you know what to expect
- home quarantine is physically stressful, but better for mild cases
- tracking oxygen saturation three times a day is critical so you aren't caught unawares
- find a doctor you can trust, and who doesn't mind you bugging him with stupid fears.
- worrying doesn't help, nor does overthinking; just take it one day at a time (and this was a tough one for me)
- smile; it is not always as bad as we fear it could be
We might go for an antibody test to find out whether we actually had COVID. Or we may not. Either way, it would be an academic exercise. Mild cases do not provide immunity for more than 60 days, so we will continue as we did before- wear masks, maintain physical distance and practice hand hygiene. And SMILE.