American in a city of 14 Million during a Pandemic
I’m writing this as I’m sitting in a room, locked inside per a doctor’s recommendation isolating myself from others as I await test results that will tell me whether or not I have Covid 19.
It all started two weeks ago, I traveled to Singapore where I had an amazing trip, I saw sights, went places, ate amazing food, and drank quite possibly the best coffee I’ve tasted in the world. I miss the local coffee so much! I took precautions, my partner and I went together, he was there to support me and hang out with me, we wore masks on the planes, went through multiple bottles of hand sanitizer, stayed clean, and washed our hands often. We didn’t touch our faces.
We came back to India after 6 days of amazing sights in Singapore and went through the medical clearance leaving Singapore, no fevers were detected as we went through thermal imaging, we weren’t exhibiting any cold or flu symptoms, we boarded our plane and returned to India. On arrival we were asked to fill out two medical forms stating if we’d been to China, South Korea, or Italy, we were asked if we were coughing, running a fever, or having other flu-like symptoms. We weren’t; our temperatures were checked and we were cleared back into the country with no more than that. It was a very simple procedure though as thorough as it could be as long as people are truthful.
My partner’s company asked for him to quarantine at home for 14 days as he had a travel history to Singapore and the week, he was gone they had implemented those traveling abroad to do 14 days at home to ensure they didn’t exhibit signs. It’s been 8 days, yesterday was day 7 and yesterday I woke up feeling like any other day, I’d started getting bad headaches, body aches, but I chalked it up to just body pain and forgot about it. By Midday I was feeling weak, lethargic, my head was going to explode, my legs and back hurt, I took my temperature and it was feverish at 100.5 F, not quite high but higher than what my body typically runs at (98.6 F is my norm). I took paracetamol and rested, 2 pm rolled around and I checked my temperature again it was up to 101.6, so I began looking up India’s hotline to call for Covid symptoms. I’m young, active, healthy and I know I don’t have anything to really fear if I have it, it’s not only about me it’s about protecting my family living with me, those people I’ve been around. My partner called the number and 10 minutes later they had given him a reference number for one of 5 hospitals in Bangalore that are doing Covid-19 screenings. In a city of almost 14 million people, Bangalore currently has 5 hospitals doing screenings, they have many more hospitals, even more, private hospitals, but out of them, all only 5 are elected to do screenings. Out of the 5, the closest hospital is 13 kilometers from my home, which to most isn’t much but in a city like Bangalore with the world’s worst traffic, 13 KM with traffic can take upwards of an hour to get through.
I began the journey to the hospital with my partner around 3 pm on March 15, my temperature was at 102 degrees F, it took us about an hour to reach and upon arrival, we were greeted by signs directing us to the screening room. Now as a US citizen living in India I’ve become aware of just how different Western hospitals are to hospitals in India, especially comparing state hospitals to any US hospital, it’s like night and day, so I thought I had prepared myself, yet I was still thrown as I approached the metal gated entrance to the screening area. No one was there so we waited until a nurse appeared and asked us what we needed, we explained that we had traveled to Singapore 7 days ago and I was showing some symptoms and we were referred here to be seen. I was told to sit on a metal chair and my partner was told to wait outside, they began asking me questions, questions which soon began to be frustrating as with a mask, my accent, their accent, and the differences in speaking English they were mishearing me, I began asking my partner to come back to translate, eventually, they finished asking questions of me and asked me to wait. In the meantime another nurse came in to spray me with bleach afterward he disappeared and began gathering thermometer, blood pressure cuff, and oxygen tester. They took my vitals, my temperature had finally dropped, my blood pressure was low, and my oxygen though, not 100 percent was decent. My pulse was racing. They again told me to wait this time for a doctor, the doctor came and asked me all over again the questions the nurses asked me, he then explained to me that the lab was closed, they would not be testing me today as it’s a holiday and the test if taken today would be wasted because they wouldn’t send it until the next day. So I needed to come back at 10 am the next day for testing. I said okay, was given antibiotics, allergy medicine, and paracetamol and instructions to stay in my room until the results were given.
Today I went back to the hospital, new nurses were there, they didn’t believe the paperwork so once again I went through the same questions, only they didn’t take my vitals, and after an hour of waiting and questions I was sent to a small room in the middle of an extremely busy hospital to wait. Eventually, another patient was brought into the room with me as I was waiting. The nurse came from the adjacent room and took my paperwork and instructed me to again wait, the man beside me was told the same. We waited, only now I was waiting by someone while I was coughing into my mask, struggling proper breath, he was removing his mask coughing, rubbing his eyes, and walking the length of the room. I was disturbed if I didn’t have Covid before surely now I would end up with it. I was panicking and becoming paranoid so thankfully the nurse finally asked me to come into the adjacent room for testing. I walked into the room, there were 4 other nurses, some wearing the N-95 masks, 2 wearing the surgical masks, no one other than the nurse who would take my swabs had put on protective clothing, and even she had been near me and the other patient in her normal clothes, I sat on the metal chair as she and the rest of the team got the swabs ready, she in her full protective gear, clothing, helmet and gloves, the others in their normal sarees and Kurtas, surgical masks, and gloves. I removed my mask and she took nose and throat swabs, I put my mask back on and was informed the results would be available in probably 3 days, to go home and isolate until then.
So here I am sitting in my room writing to share my experience because it’s disturbing the flaws in the citizen. I am living in a country with a population of 1.37 Billion people compared to where I used to live in the United States 329.45 Million People. The US is concerned about their medical systems failing, Italy has shown what happens when they start failing, why isn’t India setting about better testing procedures, more testing, is it because they can’t afford it? Or is it because they’ve been smart and as soon as countries started showing increased cases, they set in forth action plans to combat it. I know in Bangalore as soon as 1 out of the 6 cases in the state died they right away set about quarantine for a week for residents, closed malls, asked tech companies to have employees work from home (this in itself is a huge thing as most Indian tech companies are very anti-work from home) and shut down nightclubs. The traffic has reduced, more people are wearing masks, and people are in general more away. The country itself has had news about the virus on for months inducing fear and worry in countless people yet again they have so few places testing so many people. In Bangalore the silicon valley of India, a city known for westerners coming to for work, to visit, for medical treatments how are they going to be able to care for the sick with so few centers ready for the masses that are surely going to crop up?
Sharing my experience is meant to bring about questions, to share my experience, I don’t have the answers, I think in this pandemic, the epidemic we’re all learning lessons on a daily basis and that’s my goal. To share, to bring about thought. Reach out to those around you. Don’t lose touch, use social media, email, phones, letters to stay in touch as we are having to distance each other but that doesn’t mean to isolate completely because luckily we’re blessed with technology allowing us to stay in touch. Take care of each other. And remember if we’re young we’ll more than likely survive but we all have parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, acquaintances who may not be so lucky so the next time you say it’s no big deal just remember for some it’s a very big deal so do your part by washing your hands, not coughing on one another, staying clean, following directions at not congregating, and reaching out.
****Once I found out my results I’ll be sure to follow up with another story and or editing of this story***