Ritika Darira along with her husband Suneel Rao had gone to attend her mother’s 59th birthday, where they found out that her father was showing flu-like symptoms. Slowly her mother succumbed to it too and they all tested positive. Her parents went through complications after returning home from the COVID hospital. Here’s her COVID story
We are currently on day 55 or so of our journey with COVID and still continuing to fight.
We assume it began on 8th September when I last met my very healthy mother who turned 59. It was her birthday. My father had returned home from work, I’ll get into the details of that shortly, and coughed through the evening. Given the flu season, his long standing issues with bad oil (yes, he had eaten some snack during one of his escapades away from home), we didn’t pay much heed and asked him to follow home remedies. He wore a mask while we were there but maybe the damage was already done. The following day he developed fever and kept coughing. We immediately asked him to be isolated and start medication for fever (Dolo+Vitamin C etc)
Due to senior citizens with pre existing conditions in my in-laws side of the family we had no option but to manage this with my parents over the phone.
While on medication, he got fever just once at night and due to weakness sometimes sounded frail and developed hallucinations (according to my mother). As most people in this situation are unable to manage these days, all isolation instructions were ignored and slowly my mother fell prey to the fever.
At this point both were maintaining saturation above 95 as per the pulse oxymeter we had at home. Since the fever had now persisted for almost a week or more we scheduled tests for both my parents They tested positive. We are now on 16th September. We insisted on hospitalisation but no attention was paid and they insisted on recovering at home. As soon as they tested positive, and since my husband and I had come in contact with them, we decided to get our entire family tested — 2 Adults 30-35 year old and 3 senior citizens — 1 with pre-existing conditions.
Thankfully my in-laws tested negative, however my husband and I tested positive. We were lucky to have extended family in Mumbai who immediately took my in-laws and grand mother in-law away to their home. This was also recommended to us by BMC. Getting COVID with mild symptoms is not as much a problem as the number of calls, arrangements and other restrictions that need to be followed immediately to ensure the infection doesn’t spread further. One needs to stay alert, not take too much stress and be strong — mentally.
After settling down from the fact we had been infected we decided to move on with life and assist my parents to seek home medication. We then had to look for a doctor who would consult them over the phone for steps to be taken during home isolation. And the medication to be followed. Other than fever and some cough they had no other symptoms. They continued to maintain saturation. BMC doctors do not provide home consultation.I’m not sure if this situation has evolved. I’m not holding this against them as during the course of our requirements they were quite helpful. We received pvt home consultation and medication began.
The last step in the process was to get a CT scan but how to get COVID positive patients a CT scan without any additional support was a blocker along with a lot of resent from my mother who started fearing the CT scan machine mixing it up for an MRI machine. They continued medication.
We are now on 18th September, I received a panic call from my parents since their oxygen dropped below 90.
We phoned our closest friends / family and the only solution was to get them hospitalised as my husband and I were under strict quarantine. We started activating our network, phoned the BMC etc and through some contacts found a bed in a private hospital. This was the time when bed capacity for COVID was at its lowest in Mumbai and all the hospitals we would think of were occupied. So we found two beds at an unheard, smaller scale facility but trusted the doctor who was helping us. My parents were admitted on a Friday. Their treatment began. A CT scan was done. And it was found that while my father had a milder infection 20-30%, my mother was seriously affected with a 40% impact.
My father did not require external oxygen support whereas my mother required one. What followed was a week of panic calls from the doctors. First to administer remdesivir to both my parents and then an emergency dose of a drug called tocilizomap to my mother. With minimal access to COVID specialist doctors, we sought whatever little guidance we could and trusted the doctors to do their job since the virus is so new and really does impact each person differently.
Things began to settle after this. However my mother’s recovery was taking longer than my father’s so he decided to return home. He returned home on 29th September. My husband and I continued our home quarantine during this time and tried to manage his schedule remotely.
Within 3 days of his return home he started complaining of all sorts of post hospitalisation issues such as urine infection, clogged stomach etc etc. Due to our inability to meet him in person, we tried to provide as much remote assistance as possible including an appointment at the hospital where he was treated, for a follow up consultation.
On the day of his appointment, he sounded iffy on the phone. By evening he had missed all our calls, and when he finally answered he was slurring and hallucinating through our conversation. We made an emergency dash to his house to find him in a semi-conscious state.
We phoned the hospital where he was treated for COVID, arranged for an ambulance through the BMC (extremely helpful chaps) and got him readmitted. Upon admission, it was observed that all his parameters were stable and the doctors rushed him for an MRI the following day. His reports were clear. Except for some infection in his Urine and a clogged stomach, the doctors were unable to point a finger as to why he went through that state. All this while my mother was still in the hospital as her oxygen levels weren’t settling at an optimum level.
Finally, on 12th October, after multiple conversations with the doctors, both of them were discharged. My father was weak but doing good. My mother walked out of the hospital while maintaining saturation with 2 ltr oxygen support.
Upon return, she was struggling with her health — typical post hospitalisation symptoms —- but seemed to be holding well until morning of 19th October when my father made a 6 am panic call to us. We yet again rushed to their house only to find my mother unconscious, pupils rolled up, teeth clenched, fists clenched and tightly rolled against her chest. It was a sign of a fit or a seizure as any layman would imagine. We again arranged for an ambulance with some help from a kind BMC doctor.
We rushed her to BSES hospital at Andheri West where we were told that they don’t have the necessary expertise to treat her and she needed to be wheeled into the emergency at Nanavati. We were told she had just 30-40 mins on her. We did that. Got to the casualty at Nanavati where the doctors started immediate action to help her. She was maintaining oxygen but her breathing was very heavy — a normal person breathes at a level of 14-15, we were told she was at level 33 and she needed to be intubated to first get her breathing under control, run an MRI of the brain and find out what had happened to her. Post that she was also put on a ventilator to ensure her body wasn’t getting further stressed and other organs were not affected. Please note that any patient who is recovering from COVID unless tested negative cannot be taken to non covid zones of Nanavati. I’m sure similar protocol is followed at other hospitals as well.
My father, husband and I spent most of our morning in the parking lot of the hospital. We finally decided to get my father to return home as we were concerned about his health too. Thankfully, my mother tested negative for COVID, and by noon the doctors at casualty had confirmed that her MRI was clear but we still didn’t have clarity on why possibly she had the episode she had at home. She was shifted to the ICU at the non COVID side of the hospital. This is a big blessing as we are atleast able to see her everyday and interact with the doctors. A team of doctors (Internal Medicine, Neurologist, Intensivist, RMOs, Nurses etc) got involved in ensuring that her parameters were first stabilised and then understand what could have caused the episode. By now we are at 4.30 pm.
Since her MRI reports didn’t show any serious concern, the next step was to check if she had developed any infection in the liquid around her brain. A brain CSF was done — for this liquid is drawn from the spine. A CT scan of the abdomen and chest was also completed. Reports would be made available the following day. Meanwhile medication was administered to her to regulate her hypertension/BP, small dose of steroids since she was on them for covid and we were explained that you just cannot stop it as it could lead to a sudden shock to the body, antibiotics for any other secondary infections.
As we tried to wind up for the day we learnt:
1. Doctors across all spectrums are still learning / trying to understand what kind of impact COVID, post recovery, has on people. It literally varies from person to person. We don’t hold it against them. We know that the doctors have done their best in our case to understand and rule out all possible medical issues one could face after recovering from a life threatening virus.
2. Immunosuppressants are a large part of the treatment protocols being followed for critical COVID patients and this leads to severe impact on the immunity levels of a perfectly healthy person. This makes them susceptible to secondary infections and hence, the post recovery care is of utmost importance.
Day 2 at Nanavati
While all neuro related issues were ruled out, the doctors identified the following issues
1. Lungs are badly fibrosed and there is a cavity in her lungs — it’s an irreversible damage to the lungs. We are still awaiting complete clarity on the percentage of damage and continue to consult doctors. More on this in following sections
2. Her stomach was badly clogged. To an extent that she required medically recommended manual intervention so her body could release the stools. All of this was supervised by doctors.
3. She had developed a severe urine infection i.e. secondary infection
4. She had fractured her foot— her James Bond attitude of wanting to walk home led to her tripping outside the house and what we thought was a sprain is actually a fracture which needs surgery — yes it doesn’t end!
By day 3 we had ruled out TB (thank god) medication was being administered for the above mentioned issues, and she was taken off sedation but continued to be on the ventilator. She took two days to regain consciousness.
Thereafter, until today 30th October, we have no clue what caused the convulsion. We know she has bad lungs, she has been taken off the vent and is holding all parameters.
The journey has been difficult on us but the hardest for her. While she managed coming off the sedation well; she has developed hallucinations after being taken off the vent which after reading and speaking with doctors made us realise that it is a form of PTSD.
We have been told that moving out of the ICU will settle her down and she will take sometime to overcome all the trauma of being isolated due to COVID, going through a ton of medication and thereafter the impact of being on a vent.
Why did this happen ?
My father unfortunately belonged to a section of society which did not believe in COVID. While he maintained some precautions during lockdown, all guard was let lose when the lockdown was lifted where despite his age and the risk he was at, he ignored all advice and recommendations to restrict movement from home, sanitise well and just overall be careful. We are not the strongest when it comes to financials but even if my father didn’t work at the little shop he owns for an year, we would have been able to keep him comfortable. We understand not everyone has this luxury. But if attention was paid on important measures including wearing a good quality mask and all self quarantine instructions were followed, perhaps this could have been avoided.
What is fibrosis of the lung ?
Our lungs are simply like balloons when we inhale air they expand and when we exhale they go back to their normal form. Fibrosis leaves permanent scars on the surface of the lungs which don’t allow that part of the lung to inflate.this leaves limited scope for them to produce enough oxygen for the entire body.
How common is this?
As we started consulting doctors we understood that many hospitals are getting patients that suffer from multiple after effects of covid and fibrosis is one of them. As per observation from some doctors number of people developing this condition due to pneumonia or influenza are lesser but covid a lot more. We got to know that there are people (mainly doctors in our immediate circle) who are suffering too so much so that getting up from the bed and walking to the washroom is a big task for them. Imagine leading a life like this ? As we started looking for more information on the issue, we realised that news papers are reporting about this impact of covid but there isn’t sufficient noise for it to atleast sensitise those who take covid lightly or do not stay cautious.
First hand experience at Nanavati ?
The day my mom was admitted within a span of hours another elderly person was rushed into emergency for breathlessness as he did not take significant care of himself after recovering from COVID. A senior citizen who was healthy but got COVID was put on the ventilator after recovery but did not survive. Another senior citizen with a preexisting condition had impact on the lungs. Recovered from COVID but her lungs were not healthy enough to sail through. I’m not sure if these deaths will get recorded under COVID deaths and that’s not a big concern but just ensuring that people are made aware could perhaps save a few lives!
Our intent to share our experience is to help people understand the post complications that COVID can cause and the havoc that it can create, the effects of which stay life long. Also to people who think COVID doesn’t exist – All the very best. Praying and hoping no one ever goes through this.
Please note that we are not doctors and this is just our experience with COVID and understanding from the doctors around us.
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