This is a guest article by Rishi Piparaiya.
If there was anyone who was all geared up to dodge the coronavirus, it was yours truly. Over the past seven months, I stepped out of the house but twice. And not one person has crossed our carefully disinfected threshold since March – no maids, staff, handymen – absolutely no one. Every package goes through a rigorous sanitization process, and masks and face shields are strewn around our house like junk in a teenager’s bedroom. Why, even the mainstream media covered my rigorous apartment zoning process.
So you can imagine the disdain in my Bah earlier this month when I was hit by a bout of fatigue and sore throat and the possibility of Covid was broached. “Too much Cabernet” I thought, furiously sucking on lozenges, as I rinsed out my wine glasses. But over the next few days as my temperature started rising, so did my concern. A home visit by a PPE clad medical technician was hastily organised and a few swabs up the nostrils and throat later, I was given the verdict: Covid positive.
So for the past few weeks, I have been recovering, at home, from Covid-19. And despite having some pre-existing risk factors, I have thankfully not faced any significant complications. I still have no idea how I caught it, but given the precautions we took, it is plausible that for most people, it is merely a matter of when one will get it, not if. The positive aspect is that it can be managed and for what it is worth, here are a couple of things to keep in mind, for anyone undergoing home treatment.
1. When there is no cure, the Doctor is the treatment
I consulted various doctors upon receiving my report, and to my consternation, there was no consensus on treatment. Some doctors advised me to do nothing other than taking vitamins and paracetamol. Others suggested I go aggressive with medicines given my risk factors. End of the day, there is no right answer. And when there is no cure, I believe the doctor is the best treatment. Therefore, your top priority should be to find a doctor who has the patience to deal with what can be a very stressful situation. Compounded by the fact that you will at best connect on an occasional call, the level of comfort you have with him or her is critical. I eventually ended up in the care of a physician who I have never seen or met, but who guided me through this with tremendous understanding and care. And that was probably my most effective medicine.
2. Get the essentials in place
In addition to possibly taking a plethora of pills, you will need to do some essential activities a few times a day. These include.
- Monitor your blood oxygen levels – you should get a pulse oximeter immediately and ideally, the reading needs to be above 95% at all times.
- Record your temperature – While in most cases, the temperature stays between 99 to 100 (I was consistently around 100 for ten days), the doctors generally want to know if it rises above 100.5.
- Lie prone on your stomach – doing so for stretches of 30 minutes at a time apparently improves oxygenation levels.
- Steam inhalation and gargling to clear throat and lungs.
3. Boring as heck, but Pranayama works
Breathing exercises probably rank right up there amongst the world’s most boring activities, along with reading organic chemistry textbooks and watching paint dry. But they work. All the experts I consulted, including some doctor friends abroad, told me to focus on breathing exercises. And thankfully, being married to one of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic proponents of Yoga and Pranayama helps. I diligently followed the practices Namita made me do (video enclosed), and this had an immediate impact on my breathing and oxygenation levels. Whether you are getting treated for Covid or merely strengthening your lungs, it is a good idea to get into the habit of doing some daily pranayama.
4. Lookout – Chart Attack!
As you can imagine, there is a lot of stuff that you will need to do daily. Medicines, vitamins, steam, gargles, monitoring vitals, exercises, etc. I found it useful to track everything on a single sheet of paper, and this is the format I used. Do whatever works for you, but as the cliché goes, what gets measured gets managed. And given that it is your health and recovery you are managing here, much more important than some business target, give it your full attention.
5. Love thy Neighbour as thyself
It really doesn’t matter how many best friends, extended family members, and well-wishers you have; when you are a Covid afflicted household, all you can really depend on are the neighbors. The fatigue, coupled with the surprise diagnosis, hit us like a ton of bricks. And our neighbors really pitched in the early days as we got things in order – by sending us food and supportive messages, as we got organized. So if you are generally the building kill-joy complaining about the late-night parties or the barking pets, I suggest you lay low for a while. At least till an effective vaccine is discovered.
6. Plan for Contingencies
While in all likelihood, you will get through this smoothly at home, you may need to get to a hospital if you encounter breathing issues or if your oxygen levels dip. My primary concern was logistics; given the contagious nature of the virus, it is unlikely that even the best-intentioned neighbors will be available to drive you down. So whether it is having a covid-recovered driver on standby, as I did, or keeping emergency service numbers handy – this is the primary contingency that you could plan for.
7. Remember that it is mostly good news
Finally, while a lot remains unknown, the good news is that medical science knows a lot more now about this virus than it did when this was just starting out. Most people in India seem to be catching a relatively mild strain, and doctors are quite accurate in predicting what to expect and know what needs to be done. So while one would rather not catch it, but even if you do, it is not the end of the world. If you follow all the basic instructions and take good care of yourself, you will do just fine.
Other than the typical post-viral fatigue, a ravenous appetite, and the unresolved nagging mystery of how the wayward coronas entered our apartment, I am doing well, and thank you for your wishes. If there is anything I can specifically advise or assist you with, please do not hesitate to drop me a message. Wishing all of you safety and good health.