It all started with fever, dry cough, and headache. I suspected that something was wrong though I didn’t come to any hasty conclusion. To be on the safe side, I started taking Azithromycin 500, DOLO 650 and Ascoril syrup. As the fever aggravated, I consulted a doctor via telephone and the physician recommended an RT-PCR test to confirm whether it was a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The very next morning I visited a nearby diagnostic center to undergo the said test. They took a nasal swab from me and the result arrived within 12 hours and the test came up positive.
I was concerned though not alarmed. I retreated to a separate room, and I asked my children not to enter my room and use a different toilet. Only my wife, who took care of me, entered my room that too wearing an N95 mask and sanitizer bottle in her hands.
As per the widely prevalent notion (media and the governmental agencies strongly advocated home quarantine), I continued to stay home merely using Azithromycin 500, DOLO 650 and Ascoril syrup, oblivious to the fact that my infection was intense which manifested in the form of high temperature extending up to 103 F.
The day I got my positive report, I observed a strange kind of sensation in my left hand and even in my heart. I felt as if something was obstructing the free flow of my blood. That was when I felt that my infection could push me into trouble. Being a news junkie, I knew that the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes blood clots [Thrombosis].
I again consulted a doctor via telephone by logging into a healthcare app. The doctor prescribed too many medicines that included an antiviral drug called Favipiravir, antibiotics such as Doxycycline, and even blood thinner medicines such as Dabigo and Aspirin. I started using all the prescribed medicines and even underwent the pathology tests that were recommended. The doctor advised me to keep a tab on my SpO2 level and he recommended hospitalization if the levels dip below 94.
It appears that the infection was so intense that none of the medicines worked and the high temperature simply refused to abate.
I could hardly sleep during the nights and suffered chills and hallucinations due to high temperature and continued coughing incessantly. I even observed that I was coughing small quantities of blood which aggravated my concern.
All through my home isolation I kept a tab on my oxygen levels by using my pulse oximeter. Initially they hovered around 97 and thereafter they declined to 95 and after two days they went below 93, which further aggravated my concern. I contacted the insurance TPA for hospitalization advice but to no avail. It appeared that the pandemic-induced rush made them hard-pressed for resources as the hospitals in the city did not have vacant beds. They just stated that they would get back to me, but they never did.
With my oxygen levels rapidly dropping below 90 and every cough discharging blood, I sought help from a COVID support group run by the organization where I work.
With the help of my company’s COVID support group, I found a bed in a nearby hospital. When I visited the hospital, my gut instinct told me that it is a poorly equipped hospital managed by people with suspicious credentials.
House of Horrors:
But I was helpless and there were no beds available in any other hospitals.
The so-called doctors spoke to my wife for a few minutes while I sat outside the reception and finally admitted me after taking a look at my CT scan and blood test reports. When I entered the hospital, my suspicions proved to be true. It did not look like a hospital at all and all they have are rusted iron cots with soiled beds and hardly any equipment. They did not even have a path lab. They ran the show with a group of ill-trained, overworked nursing staff and a set of oxygen cylinders.
As my oxygen levels were dropping, they administered oxygen but very sparsely and for every half an hour someone would come to reduce the pressure of the oxygen inconveniencing me. Someone from a nearby diagnostic center would come and collect the blood samples from the patients and some injections were administered. A person, who claimed himself to be a cardiologist, would visit the so-called hospital and repeat the same sentence day after day, “are all the patients stable?”.
But to the sheer misfortune of the patients, very few of them were stable in that poorly equipped hospital with ill-trained nurses and physicians with suspicious credentials. Things looked gloomy. The so-called hospital occupied two stories of a larger building. The relatively stable patients were kept in the lower story and the patients whose condition was serious were shifted to the upper story of the building.
I was there for three days and as the days progressed the number of stable patients declined drastically, and many patients were shifted to the upper story.
Some patients, whose condition deteriorated, started screaming in a mind-numbingly terrifying manner sending chills down the spine of the stable patients. As there are no rooms in the hospital and just open corridors with beds on either side, the patients can witness the critically ill patients getting wheeled in and after some hours their bodies getting wheeled out. I witnessed three deaths like that. The screams and deaths resulted in a spike in my blood pressure and made me more vulnerable.
All these incidents made it very clear that the hospital is not equipped to treat COVID patients and it is actually a makeshift facility opened by a bunch of greedy individuals with suspicious credentials. They were operating it just to mint money taking advantage of the pandemic-induced patient rush. I realized the fact that if I continued to stay in the same hospital it won’t be much time before I will be moved upstairs and from there never to return.
Then I called my wife and briefed her about my plight and asked her to get me discharged from the hospital. I even called some of my superiors and requested their help in shifting me to a different hospital. Meanwhile, I received a WhatsApp message on my mobile phone stating that there are some beds available in a reputed hospital nearby. Sensing an opportunity to escape the house of horrors, I asked my wife to visit me and get me discharged. After my wife came and paid an exorbitant amount for the mediocre treatment and distressingly poor facilities, I was discharged.
Now, you may wonder why I narrated my personal experience with a so-called hospital? My only intention is to bring to light how some unscrupulous people with suspicious credentials opened make-shift facilities to mint money taking advantage of the pandemic. They, with their lack of expertise, not only put the lives of the patients in jeopardy but also collected exorbitant amounts of money pushing the patients and their families into financial crisis. These so-called hospitals did not even issue receipts for the amount they charged, and they accepted money only in the form of hard cash. The government did not have any control over these hospitals and the lives of the patients were at risk. In the absence of any control or the guidelines to the hospitals and non-enforcement of guidelines (if any), the patients and their families suffered untold ordeal.
The Elusive Remdesivir:
When I got hospitalized, the doctor prescribed Remdesivir injections to treat my SARS-CoV-2 infection. But the Remdesivir injections were no where to be found. They are not there in hospitals and they are not there in pharmacies. But they are there in the hands of the black marketeers. And the defunct government in the Telangana state, which does not do anything unless told by the high court, played the role of a mute spectator to the issue and did not do anything to stop the black marketing. Those who could afford to spend Rs. 20,000 to 35,000 per vail ( a patient requires six vials) could buy them to save their lives of their near and dear ones. Many spent anywhere between Rs. 1,50,000 to 2,00,000 to buy the six vials of the Remdesivir injections. That is the state of affairs in India, especially in Hyderabad; Telangana. The lives of the people did not have any value and they are the orphans of the state. While people were in distress and dying in large numbers, the governments were busy concealing the number of deaths and their usual politicking.
Shifting to a Different Hospital:
I heaved a sigh of relief while moving out of the house of horrors.
Thereafter, I got admitted into a hospital where the facilities and healthcare professionals were good. I underwent treatment there for three days and my condition slowly improved. There I was given antiviral, antibiotic, and steroid treatment. After three days, my condition stabilized, and I was discharged.
Things I learnt from the Experience:
Not all COVID infections are same. Some are superficial and some are severe. The media and the governmental agencies, however, seemed to put all the infections on the same pedestal and failed to sensitize the people on the precautions that should be taken. As a result many people, despite suffering severe infection, continued to stay home using Azithromycin and DOLO, and as a result, their condition deteriorated. In some cases it even resulted in mortalities.
Many unscrupulous elements, taking advantage of the pandemic, opened makeshift so-called hospitals to mint money. These people with suspicious credentials fleeced out the patients despite not having any facilities to treat COVID patients.
The medicines that are used to treat the patients fell into the hands of the black marketers and the people had to cough out lakhs of rupees to buy Remdesivir injections. We don’t know the fate of the poor people, who could not buy the medicines in the black market. The government remained a mute spectator to all these atrocities. The local government in Telangana was trapped in internal political squabbles and was highly reluctant to take any proactive measures to mitigate the suffering of the people. The High Court of Telangana, on many occasions, pulled up the government for being lackadaisical in its approach towards helping the people who are in distress.
Even after the recovery, there are some post-covid complications the patients had to deal with. For example, I had low platelet count when I got tests done after one week of my recovery. There are many other patients who had blood clots, low oxygen levels, persisting cough and weakness and kept frequenting hospitals to receive treatment for the complications.
I, during the recovery phase, felt very week and my brain was hazy, and as a result, my cognition was dull. It was a long arduous route to recovery.