2020 has become synonymous with the pandemic. It’s shocking to see how an invisible, local virus boomed into a global pandemic in a matter of few weeks – and now, it’s been a year. Countries have been battling to flatten the curve, and at an individual level, frontline workers are trying their best to curb it from spreading.
The battle against the virus is on so many levels. Here is Akshata Jaiprakash, an English lecturer based in Bangalore, who not only battled the virus, but managed to overcome it. Her story is a grueling one, something that sends chills down the spine and also something that inspires fighting the invisible challenge.
Let’s start with the first question that everyone wishes to know – how did you get the virus?
My husband, Suneel’s uncle and aunt visited us one day for a simple lunch. I was in college when they came home and didn’t even meet them. However, five days later, they came down with symptoms, and soon after, they were tested positive and admitted to the hospital.
Around two days later, Suneel started getting the symptoms of cough and cold with chills and fever. And finally, two days after that, I started getting the symptoms as well. Although I didn’t have a fever initially, I was extremely exhausted all the time.
What happened after that? How serious was it?
We didn’t go for the COVID test as soon as we got the symptoms, thinking it could be the usual viral fever as the weather was changing. Suneel was always in contact with our family doctor; and since he has an underlying condition of borderline diabetes, we were advised to get it tested. We were told that any fever (or any symptom) needs to be treated as COVID until the tests showed negative.
So the next natural step was to get tested. And lo, Suneel was tested positive and had to be hospitalized. Next, all of us at home got tested, and everyone at home, except my mother-in-law, were tested positive. However, my daughter Avani, father-in-law, and grandma-in-law didn’t have any symptoms even if they were positive.
Tell us what it felt like – having the entire household tested positive for COVID?
Stressful! The entire family was under an extremely stressful condition for that phase. A five-year-old and an 89-year-old grandma testing positive was something that scared us a lot. Moreover, three members were admitted to the hospital, while my daughter and I quarantined ourselves. There was simply a lot of stress, both physically and mentally during those times.
How was your experience in particular?
One of my major symptoms was fatigue – severe fatigue at that. I was locked inside a room for nearly 10 days. And being an independent woman, I also found myself feeling guilty for relying on my mother-in-law for everything. I think I was feeling more stressed because I was completely helpless. There was a time where I just couldn’t sit. It felt difficult to get up from the bed.
Again, this made me feel guilty for being unable to take care of my daughter. One of the good things was that Avani was asymptomatic, so she could take care of herself. But how much can a 5-year-old do on her own? As soon as I started getting better, we started playing board games and I started to spend more time with her.
Did you face any kind of social or psychological outcasting?
No, certainly not. I guess I’m blessed to have the support from all my family and friends, and even my workplace. In my case, I didn’t need any outcasting as I had quarantined myself as soon as I got to know.
But really, there’s nothing like COVID-19 because it truly isolates you. I’ve faced chickenpox and typhoid when I was younger. But I would have my mother or anyone to comfort me, feed me, and take care of me. With COVID, anyone who comes near you needs to wash their hand or even take a shower.
There’s a conception that treating COVID is pretty easy and can be done at home? Is it true?
Well, once you overcome it, you’ll feel it was easy. But experiencing it as I did is certainly not easy. It becomes even more difficult if you have underlying conditions like diabetes or BP, or anything like that. Since it’s possible to test positive by being asymptomatic, one might feel it’s easy to get rid of. However, COVID is unique as it depends from person to person.
What was your experience with doctors?
I must say the BBMP doctors and healthcare workers were my saviors. I would get at least 3-5 calls in a day asking about my condition, asking if I was feeling okay. They would do a virtual vitals check-up, check my temperature, my pulse, and so on. These doctors were my moral support, telling me I was going to be okay soon. I had so many questions to ask – especially about my daughter. And the doctors answered all of them patiently, every time I asked anything.
Do you have any lasting symptoms even after testing negative?
No. It’s been a while since we tested negative. And none of us have any symptoms. In fact, my grandma-in-law has become healthier with the additional supplements going into her body!
Reports are citing that people have died even after testing negative. Or reports of the symptoms coming back again. How do you feel about that?
Initially, I had no idea about the virus. But since getting it, I’ve been doing a lot of studying and research. It’s come to an understanding that despite turning negative once, you still need to regularly test yourself – especially if you have underlying conditions. The thing is, the COVID symptoms will come down, but the virus’ effect might still linger.
I’ve also read reports where doctors are giving steroids to patients and I was initially abashed. But I discovered that COVID can confuse your immune system, and make it kill the good cells. With initial confusion, research, and studying the virus has helped me better understand what the news is really about.
How has your life changed after COVID?
After overcoming the COVID trauma, I’ve become extra careful about everything. But being too cautious also doesn’t work. I have a job that demands me to go to the workplace every day and interact with people. I’m still scared about the virus and hence I take the required precautions, maybe a little extra!
To conclude, Akshata and her family are among the millions of survivors, who’ve fought back. When I asked her how’s the year been for her, she couldn’t help but laugh! A rollercoaster ride, she tells me. And with a few weeks to go for the year to end, she says she braces herself for the unexpected, which sums up how everyone is feeling before stepping into the new year.