Monday, July 27, 2020

After you hear, “I’m positive”

“I'm positive.”
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.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

How do you react when someone in your Apartment tests positive

The way things are now going, it is only a matter of time before someone in your physical vicinity tests positive for COVID-19.
Rather than wait for the local authorities to lay down strategies after the results, it is best to prepare in advance.
Come up with a set of guidelines on the steps that would be taken, and get the buy-in of all the residents. When framing these strategies, make sure you also put yourself in the position of the household testing positive, and ensure their needs are covered.
Since there will be movement restrictions on all the people in the household where a person has tested positive, make sure enough thought is given to how they will have access to essential goods and services.
Procure any special products that may be needed in case a household needs to be sealed off.
Asking them to put out garbage in special bags meant for toxic waste will not be sufficient- the bags would have to be made available to them because they can't go out and get it.
If possible, run these guidelines through with those of the local municipality, to ensure they are aligned. This would ensure that quarantine measures can be put in place as early as possible.
All this should ideally be in place before the first case shows up.

Once the residents come to know that a person has tested positive, everyone shows concern and offers to help.
But vague offers are not very helpful. Especially in apartments where you don't really know your neighbours.
Be specific in what you can do to help.
"If you want something from the grocer, let me know", and "anytime you want chai, ask me or my kids", are two specific offers people have always taken me up on in the past.
(I know my limitations. If I attempt to feed them, I may end up poisoning them)
Food is a major concern in any house where there is a person/ persons self isolating. Household chores can be put off, but the family needs to eat.
If the residents in the apartment complex can get together and supply food, that would be an invaluable service.
Offering to make one trip per day to the grocer and/ or chemist is another tangible assistance that the residents can take turns in providing.
If there is a pet in the house, and you are willing, do offer to board the pet. That's one less hassle for the family to deal with
Also, do check in periodically. Ask about the patient. Ask about the other people in the house. Offer to help.
When the family is emotionally stressed, kindness does make a difference
If you think the household is violating the guidelines, be gentle in your tone when you remind them. They do not want to infect you any more than you want to be infected. Using an accusatory tone is not helpful in any way.
If there is an issue, talk it out and sort it out.
Always remember that today it is someone else, but tomorrow it could be you. Treat others like you would want to be treated. More importantly, when you test positive, a family that has already developed antibodies will be able to help you the most.
Make sure they will want to.

Friday, July 10, 2020

A slippery slope towards lawlessness

Seven months back, when the four people suspected of raping and killing Dr. Priyanka Reddy were killed in an encounter, many cheered. They thought the legal process was slow and and there is no guarantee that criminals will be punished. So rather than wait for justice to come, were happy that justice was delivered soon.
They wanted closure, and they got closure. But at what cost?
Vigilantism was normalised, by subverting the judicial process.

There are many crimes today that qualify as "rarest of rare". They are all heinous crimes. The criminals need to be punished. But due legal process has to be followed by the police and the judiciary. Evidence has to be collected, guilt has to be proved beyond any doubt, and the punishment should be as prescribed by law. If we think the process is slow, we should push for judicial reforms so the legal process is fast tracked in such cases.

But nothing can justify vigilantism.
The day we support one act of vigilantism, we forfeit the right to question other similar acts. And then we get on a slippery slope to lawlessness. We surrender all claims on any legal process.

Today, because you don't have the patience to wait for justice, you justify killing a rapist in an "encounter".
Tomorrow, the rapist's brother decides you are insulting him, and kills you.

The law cannot protect you, because you have neutralized the law by letting it be bypassed.

And who benefits when there is no law to protect?
The criminals.
The strongmen.
The people who have might.

Who loses?
The weak.
The marginalized.
The ones who require justice the most.

If you believe in justice, demand better laws and better implementation of existing laws.

Else, accept that you are partially responsible for all the crimes against the marginalized. Because you helped dismantle the laws that might have kept them safe.


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