Shipwrecked with Corona: 17 days of struggle and recovery

DNA Explainer: What are the types of COVID-19 variants found in India?
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On April 13, 2021, my RT-PCR report indicated that, I have tested positive with COVID-19. The next day, my parents also came positive. 7 days later, my wife and 3 year old son also tested positive, not with an RT PCR test but with another methodology called TrueNat Test. 9 days later my brother, his wife and their young kids aged 5+ and 2+ years also tested positive in Hyderabad, 1500 Kilometers away.

We had been shipwrecked with the dreaded virus. Below is the day-by-day synopsis of what went in for 17 days of home isolation.

Day (-3): Initial symptoms of sinus infection, nasal irritation and some cough. Took home medication thinking its regular flu.

Day (-2): First chills came in night. Thought could be linked to the sinus infection. Took regular paracetamol and continued usual activities. When the fever persisted in the evening, isolated myself. Ate Maggi for dinner. It tasted different. It was bland. Sense of taste was lost.

Day (-1): Fever still persists. Diarrhea came as a new symptom. Though I had tested negative for Covid 6 times in the last one year, felt this time I have fallen prey. Went for testing. Continued in self-quarantine.

Day 0: Report came positive. Immediately asked rest of the family members to get tested. An ambulance came by itself to take me to an isolation centre. Pleasantly surprised but politely declined the offer as the symptoms were still mild. Decided to continue with home quarantine. Doctor prescribed antibiotics, vitamins, Zinc, paracetamol, some antacids, and lots of fluids. Medication started. Fever rose to 100-degree F. My wife called our friend, Dr. Ajay Dogra, who is a senior Director in Fortis. He asked to get into tele-consultation with a pulmonologist, Dr. Manoj Goel from Fortis Gurgaon. She could arrange an appointment only for next day.

Here is a very informative video on how to interpret CT score in your RT-PCR report.

Day 1: Fever rose to 101-degree F. Parents tested positive. Wife and son tested negative. (Some Relief). Split the house into two zones – containment area for myself and parents and regular for my wife and son. Oximeter and steam machine were arranged. Regular checks on oxygen levels started. Mother started feeling chills and reported first symptoms. Wishes from all the world for quick recovery started pouring in. Some shared very useful videos for breathing exercises. I assumed I wouldn’t need them so ignored them at the time. Consulted with the doctor, he didn’t look alarmed, though reading expressions was impossible as he was fully decked up in PPE kit, masks and other precautionary accouterments. He prescribed a couple of changes in medication.

Day 2: Fever persisted at 102-degree F. Dr. Dogra told to reduce air conditioning temperature as paracetamol does not work for 102-degree F levels of temperature. Got no respite. Wore a wet vest and slept. Fever reduced temporarily.

Day 3: Body ache started and I started losing sense of time. Going to the washroom for regular chores became a punishment. Weakness coupled with some breathlessness made these chores very difficult. My oxygen level started to dip to 95. I started to getting scared. Thoughts of going to ICU started coming to me. While sleeping, I dreamed of struggling alone in an ICU room. Fever persisted at 102-degree F. Parents started having continuous fever of 100-degree F. We were worried if we would need to take them to ICU, what would happen.

Day 4: One of the worst days in the whole period. Could not complete daily chores in one go. Had to come out midway and had to take a 30-minute break to continue. Felt the end is near. Some coughing happened. I could see blood in phlegm. Throughout the day, the body was high on fever ranging from 101-degree F to 102-degree F. Was worried about parents too as their temperature was around 100-degree F. My oxygen dropped to 93% SPO2 level. Got really worried. Immediately got into prone position. In one hour, pulled it back to 97%. Some respite. However, start hallucinating about horrific ICU wards in hospitals if I were to go there. In the night, decided to sleep in the prone position itself. Day long sleep made it difficult to catch up with sleep at night. At around 3 a.m., I woke up. Lot of blood laden mucous came out of from my nose. But I felt really good. Energized. Went back to sleep at 5 a.m. and woke up in 3 hrs.

Day 5: This was the day for second consultation with Doc. Morning problems did not subside. Fever came down one degree to range from 99-degree F to 100-degree F. Psychological pressure of the disease led to minor argument with wife on a trivial thing. Felt really bad afterwards. Mother’s oxygen pressure started dipping and came to 95%. Got her into prone position to pull it back to 97%. Doc’s consultation was quick and smooth. He asked to get an HRCT done and return. Gave some medication to provide relief from the morning breathlessness. Wife reported she is feeling sick and has fever. Son also had mild fever. Did we infect them now? Immediate remedy was to give them paracetamol to control the fever. It worked. Brother reported initial symptoms from Hyderabad, 1500 kms away.

Day 6: Good day finally. No fever today. Felt energized. Went for HRCT scan and found that there is moderate pneumonia in the lungs. Spent time researching the numbers. Day went by smoothly. Wife lost taste and smell. Son was fine. Next worry was to get them tested. Parent’s condition remained static with oxygen levels above 95% SPO2 and fever around 99-degree F. Father started getting frustrated with the situation but recovered soon remembering that he is head of the family and he has to stay course positively.

Here is how to read the HRCT scan report by Dr. K K Agarwal.

This is in Hindi and English but from a very reliable Doctor.

A very information video on HRCT score and CT Score

Day 7: Wife and son went for testing at a different facility. They were charged three times the regular for testing. I pretended that I am getting normal. Sensing that I may become casual, Dr. Dogra called and asked me to be very careful for the next 2-3 days. I arranged for the doctor’s consultation. Continued with resting. My taste started to improve a bit. First day when parents reported that their fever is not there. It came back in evening though. Mother reported problems in speaking as she felt something was obstructing her. Got their appointment as well with the Doctor. Brother confirmed positive test outcome for all including his two young kids aged 5+ years and 2+ years.

Day 8: Doc saw my report and didn’t sound alarmed. Relief. He put me on some steroids and changed dosage for other medication. He asked for series of blood tests and HRCT scan for both the parents. Wife and son’s report didn’t come as the hospital they went to didn’t provide an update. Started chasing them over phone. I continued to feel that I am improving though there was some pressure in breathing if I spoke for 10 minutes. With steroids, my body became like a food guzzler. I was always hungry from then on.

Day 9: Doc consultation for parents arranged. Heard wife was arguing with the testing facility help desk over reports. The lab in-charge promised she will arrange reports in 4 hrs. Both wife and son came positive. They used some new technique called ‘TrueNat’ instead of RT-PCR. We didn’t trust the result but still removed the barriers in the house. Now, everyone was infected so work load sharing could be done. Wife had been overburdened with work. I continued to feel better. Oxygen levels maintained above 95% for all. Mother’s voice was still a concern.

Day 10: Doc changed medication for parents and put them on steroids. Since both the parents are diabetic, had to chase their other doctors for co-morbid ailments for approval of medication. They recommended a sugar level test twice a day and remedial action in case of high sugar.

Day 11, 12, 13: Situation improved at home. Doc reviewed wife’s condition and recommended no medication other than for immunity and also to recover taste and smell. Parents also continued to improve. I felt better.

Day 14: Doorbell rang and a policeman was there. He had been sent by local District Magistrate to take care of us. Told him he is late by 2 weeks. He spoke to his boss and after multiple back and forth calls between me, him and his boss, he finally went away.

Day 15 : I resumed office. Energy levels were still down so first day was laborious. Situation improved everyday but its clear, it’s a long way to go.

Day 17: Doc reduced my steroids consumption to half of initial dosage. Hunger reduced. I complained of feeling like my mouth is always dry. Doc suggested to eat sugar free chewing gum to keep the mouth hydrated.

What worked for us?

  1. Timely testing when we started seeing initial symptoms.
  2. Researching before reacting. We got a lot of inputs from multiple places but we didnt immediately adopt anything without proper research. This is very crucial.
  3. Taking doctor’s prescription immediately instead of relying on local or home remedies.
  4. Ignore WHATSAPP recommendations completely.
  5. Just going by doctor’s advice instead of scrambling with a long list of tests and recommendations.
  6. Immense help from people around us. Our maid ensured we got home cooked food every day. Our driver checked in regularly despite the fact that he himself was positive with very mild symptoms. Our neighbours and extended family regularly checked in and provided food and supplies as required.
  7. Greetings, offers for help, flowers, regular checks and even messages from senior management of my employer kept the spirits really high.
  8. 3 liters of lemonade (sugar free) everyday
  9. Fresh juices from citric fruits like oranges etc.
  10. Sprouts, cottage cheese, eggs, protein, protein, protein…
  11. Regular checks on oxygen
  12. Steaming along with breathing exercises like anulom vilom. This is a great video for breathing exercises.
  1. Regular walks inside the house even if we got tired in 10 minutes.
  2. Staying positive
  3. Cracking jokes and having fun when the fever was gone
  4. Dividing household work amongst all of us so that there is no one person struggling alone.
  5. Prayers to God. Fact that we all were sick during the navraatri, we believe Goddess Durga was kind on us and helped us navigate through the worst phase of our life so far.

You can find a lot of informative and useful videos on this channel. Lot of people are struggling to interpret their blood reports, these videos help with that too.

Channel for Dr. K K Aggarwal.

Update: Dr. K K Aggarwal, who has been referred to multiple times in this post succumbed to Covid-19 on May 17, 2021. My deepest condolences with his family. He shall always remain with us with the work he has done over the years and esp. for education about Covid-19. Om Shanti!

These are very tough times for many in India. While we are thankful to God that we have closed in to recovery, we pray for an early rebound to normal times for everyone affected.

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