It’s been a week, a week ago today I arrived at Jayanagar General hospital to be tested for Covid-19, it was the day after I had gone per the government’s advice to be seen and tested, the start of the ever-challenging system of determining whether or not I have Covid. The good news is I supposedly don’t have it, the bad news is the system is so confusing, exhausting, and difficult I wouldn’t recommend anyone have to deal with it. I was told my results would be ready after 3 days, 3 days was then 4 days, and by the 5th day I was angry, feverish, in pain, and so exhausted but I made my partner take me back to the hospital to ask them face to face what my results were since despite their reassurances no one called me so once again we were at risk by traveling to the government hospital.
A lot had changed between Monday and Friday, the hospital had been cleared out, what on Monday was an extremely busy and congested building was now empty. It was like staring at an apocalyptic movie, the building was empty except for nurses and orderlies cleaning and wearing plastic covers over scrubs, most wore masks and gloves, one man was on the loudspeaker informing people arriving that the government hospital was no longer available except to Covid patients. We were directed to the screening area despite informing them we just wanted the test results, once in the screening area, they sent us back to the main entrance where we asked the nurse and orderlies for entrance to the room we were directed to. They denied us entry and told me my results weren’t ready despite it being 5 days post-testing, finally, a doctor came out and finally told me to enter to the room to pick up my results, upon entry I was once again stopped by yet more doctors and nurses standing in the middle of the room without masks on, they asked me to wait and eventually a nurse went to find my results. They were negative. Day 6 of fevers, cough, sore throat, body aches and pains, lethargy and I was negative and sent home.
We elected to go to a private hospital despite knowing that India hadn’t yet approved private hospitals to test for Covid. Once there they escorted us carefully to the physician who right away asked why we didn’t get retested as clearly, I have symptoms. We explained they said no so we are hoping he has suggestions. He ordered blood tests and the H1N1 swab test to be done. Seems simple, except as it turns out the H1N1 testing in India isn’t that easy to come by so we traveled to yet another hospital that performs the test where we were sent on a journey of going to a lab to be directed to a different lab, to be directed to find a doctor willing to fill out a special form specific to getting tested for the H1N1 Flu as its rare and has to be notified to the Ministry of Health office. Eventually, I was shown to the lab chair where they took 3 vials of blood plus a small pint-sized bottle of blood. They informed me test results would be available online, some within 4 hours, the H1N1 about 3 days, the blood platelet would be 4 days for the preliminary report and 8 days for the final report. The testing would let me know if I have Typhoid fever, Malaria, Dengue, or the H1N1.
Later that night I read my first few lab reports showing a high reading of white blood cells, a local doctor friend explaining to me that it basically means I have signs of a Viral Fever, or in medical terms yes I have an infection which could be the Flu, Covid, Malaria, Dengue, or Typhoid, a cold, or any variety of things but to stay calm, to drink fluids and rest.
The following day arrived the symptoms continuing to be present, but thankfully I’ve also had some energy in the mornings so I did what most people I know do, I cleaned the room with bleach and disinfected everything with the help of my partner. Midday came and the Karnataka health department govt began calling me for their daily check-in with me. They wanted to know why I haven’t been retested or gone back to the state hospital. We let them know that the last time we went we were advised not to be tested again as it was negative, the told us that we needed to go. It was Janata curfew and we were apprehensive about going, but we also didn’t want to disobey the state government so we went. We arrived at the hospital armed with all of my documents, the previous negative test, the private medical notes, the ordered tests, and the few test results I had. We were dismissed almost instantly. I was told over and over that I had tested negative and that I just needed to go home. I was being given different messages, the government wants me tested, the medical says no to go home, to tell them they said no. I was confused, angry, conflicted, I went back to a testing site again exposing myself (I took precautions of a mask, hand sanitizer, etc) what was with this system. I get it, it’s new, there's no protocols, limited knowledge, but why was I repeatedly given conflicting messages.
Once home I posted my frustration on social media, thankfully this is the age in a time where we can post things and get help from being socially connected. My partner's friend connected us with a local doctor who is considered to be an expert in Covid, as much of an expert as a doctor can be in a newer virus. He explained to us, that it may or may not be negative, but mostly it’s hard to tell early on, to go get retested after 14 days. There’s no protocol, there's limited knowledge but it’s a form of the flu, a cold, it’s contagious, rest, paracetamol, medicine, fluids are key. Get tested after the 14 days again to confirm but at the end of the day, the test doesn’t really matter as I have symptoms so to treat it as a positive. Isolate. Quarantine. I have a mild case thankfully so I don’t need a hospital so to keep doing the medications and in a few weeks, I should be fine, if my breathing changes go to the hospital.
So my friends, those reading this that’s my journey so far. I don’t know what I have. I have symptoms of Covid, but at the end of the day, I’ll just continue practicing rest (as much as I can, it’s hard being confined to a room for weeks, but its about more than me) drinking water, hot liquids, warm food, avoiding fresh uncooked fruits and vegetables per doctors recommendation, taking Vitamins, and medications. Stay safe friends, if you’re sick or suspect you could be sick try not to expose those around you, try not to expose the elderly, those like me will recover but not everyone will be that lucky. My family, some of my dear friends are in the US, it’s hard knowing I’m so far away but at this point as things have progressed I am where I am and it’s for the best. The future is unknown but together we can get through this. India has elected some stringent exercises in Social distancing to slow or stop the spread so while their health care may not be the best at protocols in a country of more than a billion people they’re doing the best they can from becoming a catastrophic situation. Lockdowns, Section 144s, curfews, fining groups of 3 or more, banning travel between the states, banning international flights from most airports, and being strict with precautions. In the next few weeks, the month will be crucial as the world evolves to the virus and hopefully, my journey of testing and sickness can help someone navigate it.