Mumbai: A week ago, I tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In the weeks and days, even hours, before my test came back positive, I had been busy in my work as a photojournalist for Deccan Chronicle in Mumbai – shooting, clicking pictures of Covid-19 patients, the facilities provided to them, migrant stuck in the megapolis, sealed buildings and isolation facilities being created at breathtaking pace.
It was a shocking moment for me when my coronavirus report came positive on April 20. I’d thought I was somehow immune to it all; I never thought I would have to go through the processes I’d seen other patients go through.
Four media photographer colleagues from my building were also found positive. We tried to calm each other down, even though inside I felt a coil of fear stirring.
A few hours later, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials informed us we would be shifted to the Goregaon Oyo Township Hotel. The next day, the nightmare became more real to us.
We were served tea and poha for breakfast. Served is a strange word to use here, but somebody just kept the food outside my room and left. No one was ready to come close to us any more. A strong feeling of being abandoned grew in my mind. I called my wife several times to calm down.
Thanks to help from some journalist friends, we were supposed to be taken to a better accommodation later. However, as per protocol, I was separated from the others. Since I was on medication for blood pressure, I needed to be kept under observation.
As per guidelines, those who have tested positive for Covid-19 and suffering from any underlying condition like diabetes or high blood pressure are at greater risk of complications from coronavirus and are kept under greater scrutiny.
As per protocol, BMC staff arranged an ambulance from Fern Hotel to Seven Hills Hospital in Marol, currently one of the largest Covid-19 treatment facilities in Mumbai.
Since there were no beds available in the hospital, we were asked to wait till beds were arranged. However, it was taking too long. I called a close friend, a health journalist in a reputed newspaper, to help arrange a bed for me.
With her help, I got a bed in a private wing of Seven Hills Hospital, run by Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation, which in collaboration with the BMC, is running 56 Covid-19 beds in SH Hospital, as part of corporate social responsibility and providing free treatment to all those admitted in the facility.
From the vantage position of an isolated bed, I could see the fight against corona from within. A nurse came and asked about my health, which was unexpected after my earlier experience in a hotel room. Next morning at 5.30, I was tested for Covid-19, again. They checked my BP, ECG and took blood samples. At 7 am, I was served tea, and biscuits. At 8 am sharp, they served jam bread, dosa, chutney, watermelon pieces, and some more tea. Every day, they served different food and checked my ECG, BP. Thankfully, my BP was under control.
As a photojournalist, I could not be a mute spectator in the battle against Covid-19 taking place in the hospital. I started talking with doctors, nurses, and ward boys. Their conviction to fight Covid truly amazed me. I asked one of them: are you not scared of corona? They said it is for the country that they are fighting the battle. The hospital staff was given personal protection equipment (PPE). There was a line drawn to demarcate the corona and non-corona area.
Every two hours, nurses inquired about my health and if I needed anything. Ward boys too were helpful and doctors were available on the phone. I am indebted to all the hospital staff for the service and care they provided me.
Then came a piece of positive news. I tested negative for corona and was ready to be discharged. When I was preparing to leave the room, the hospital staff was ready to say goodbye. They took photos and videos with me. They even gave a message through video to all people that they are warriors against corona and won’t give up easily. The only little help they need from all of us people is to stay safe in our houses and not venture out. My bag was sanitised before leaving the hospital. The staff began clapping and cheering for me when I left.
A real morale-boosting moment, when I realised I had a tryst with the monster, and had come out victorious. But would forever be in debt of those who are protecting and curing us....