My wife was five months pregnant, and then our greatest fear knocked on the door. Everything was going well when, one morning in the first week of April, she complained of headache, acute body pain, and nausea. This is quite normal during pregnancy, so I gave her the SOS medicines prescribed by her gynaecologist. The next day, her health deteriorated as she complained of shortness of breath (in medical terms it is known as dyspnoea).
On April 9, her temperature was hovering around 100.3 to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and she was shivering at night, when Kolkata was struggling with the heat. She had an uncontrollable cough.
I called up one of my family doctors and he prescribed a few medicines to control her cough, fever and body ache. I also consulted my wife’s gynaecologist before giving her the medicines.
Things get worse
Around 11.30 pm (the same day), her temperature fell drastically to 93 degrees Fahrenheit (mild hypothermia) and her oxygen level dropped to 88 (SpO2).
While my wife was struggling with shortness of breath, I was shaking out of fear and trauma in the middle of the night. Everything was dark in front of me.
I became numb and finally around 1 am (on April 10), I once again (with a lot of hesitation and with no other options) called up my family doctor and told him about the dropping oxygen level of my wife (I don’t have words to express my gratitude towards him for receiving my call).
Since my wife is pregnant, he advised me to get her to a hospital immediately.
The same day (on April 10) around 11 am, an RT-PCR test was done at home and my wife’s report came positive. After getting the report, the next challenge was to get a bed in a hospital and I was trying to get her admitted in a private hospital off EM-bypass in Mukundapur. I was told by family doctors that this private hospital has the best Covid-19 care facility.
In the meantime, I shifted my parents to our other house in Salt Lake for their safety and informed my office about my situation. I would like to convey loads of thanks to my managers in Delhi for being extremely supportive.
While I was making calls to the hospital for a bed for my wife, she started crying and requested me not to shift her to the hospital.
I consoled her and told her that she will receive good care at the hospital. However, she was adamant and asked me to consult my family doctor again. She feared that she would not be able to return home again.
I called up the doctor and he advised me to monitor her oxygen level round the clock and suggested an inhaler (twice daily for three days) to reduce her lung infection. The doctor told me that he would first work on containing her lung infection because that is the area which is reducing her oxygen level and also gave a few steroid tablets.
He also told me that this was the last attempt to improve her condition, otherwise she would have to get admitted to the hospital. In fact, my family doctor personally informed the hospital about the possible requirement of a bed in case the inhaler and steroids failed to work.
I called up the facility manager in our residential complex and he arranged the inhaler and steroids.
Before going for the medicines, I consulted my wife’s gynaecologist, a critical care specialist (our family friend), and an internal medicine expert who is associated with the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences and a senior doctor (my uncle) in Madurai in Tamil Nadu, and they gave a green signal for the medicines.
I cross-checked about the medicines because I wanted to be sure due to my wife’s pregnancy.
A YouTube link was shared by my family doctor on how to use the inhaler so that it directly hit the infected areas of her lungs.
Besides her regular medicines and Covid care drugs, my wife took the inhaler and the steroids. She was also advised by her doctor to blow a balloon (as a part of breathing exercises) on an hourly basis to increase the oxygen level.
Before taking the medicines, she had a piece of bread with butter, and some pomegranate juice. Due to a loss of appetite, she was not feeling like eating anything except fruits and juices.
I asked her to sleep and with utmost care and hygiene, I gave some cornflakes and milk to my daughter who was isolated in a separate room.
The next big challenge was cleaning the house, washing clothes, and preparing lunch as we asked the maid to take leave because of the pandemic situation in our house.
It was a scary and gloomy atmosphere at home as everybody was isolated. To break the silence, I turned on the radio and started working on cleaning the house and washing the clothes. My mother called me and asked me to stay mentally strong as I was extremely worried about my wife and the unborn baby.
I quickly prepared some khichdi and omelettes (the only thing I can cook in a short time) and waited for my wife to wake up. In the meantime, I served lunch to my daughter.
Around 2.30 pm, my wife woke up and asked for water. I gave some ORS (oral rehydration solution) to her (as suggested by the doctors). I checked her oxygen level and heaved a sigh of relief when the oximeter recorded her Sp02 at 94.
Believe me, I actually danced out of excitement, which made all of us smile for a while during those stressful moments. My daughter, who was terrified due to the sudden crisis at the house, looked at me and asked, “How is Ma? She will recover soon, right, Daddy?”
I consoled her and said, “Yes".
The search for oxygen
On April 11, the oxygen level again started fluctuating at night. I called up my family doctor again and he advised me to give her the prescribed inhaler and the steroid. He also asked me to keep oxygen support handy in case of an emergency at night.
After a brief happy moment, I was again in the middle of an emergency situation. Through local inquiry, I found that a guy called Rahman was providing oxygen support on rent.
On the night of April 11, I called up two people for oxygen support. One was Rahman and another was a stationery shop owner, Shyamal Dey (a well-wisher) in the Lake Town area.
Rahman said he would be able to give me a portable oxygen cylinder in the morning on April 12. However, I decided not to take any chances and contacted Shyamal da.
Shyamal da told me that there is a company that sells portable oxygen cans (he came to know about the product through one of his friends who bought the cans for a Covid patient). He said that he can manage those cans (for temporary support till morning) from a medicine shop near RG Kar Hospital.
It was around 10 pm. I requested him to get five cans for me if possible and he instantly agreed. He rushed to the medicine shops near RG Kar Hospital and around 11.30 pm he delivered the portable oxygen cans at the main gate of my residential complex. Later one of the facility staff members delivered them to my apartment.
Meanwhile, my daughter had gone to sleep after having roti and sabzi (provided by one of our neighbours). My wife too had had a few bites and gone to sleep after having medicines.
I was feeling significantly relaxed after getting the oxygen cans and I decided to get my wife admitted to the hospital on April 12.
The whole night I could not sleep as I was terrified with her fluctuating oxygen levels. I was feeling very restless and waiting for dawn to break. In the meantime (at midnight), her gynaecologist texted and asked me not to panic as she will be fine. That message from her gynaecologist helped me fight back.
While I was making plans for her hospitalisation, I fell asleep out of extreme stress. Around 6 am, I woke up and the oximeter recorded her SpO2 at 97 (on April 12).
That was one of the best mornings of my life.
I texted my doctor and informed him about my wife’s improving health condition. He replied that the inhaler, steroids and other medicines seemed to be working well on her.
My wife didn’t have a fever around 9 am and she said that she was feeling hungry (it was a miracle because she had lost her appetite and taste completely). Her cough had also reduced by a significant level.
In the meantime, around 9.30 am, Rahman, as promised, delivered the portable oxygen cylinder at the main gate.
I informed all the doctors with whom I was consulting and all of them suggested monitoring her oxygen level till the evening (on April 12). That afternoon, there was no drop in her oxygen level and she was looking fresh.
In the evening too her oxygen level was hovering around 96 to 98. Thankfully, the emergency phase was over and the doctors advised home isolation for her.
Presently, she is perfectly fine and healthy. The second and the third week of April was a nightmare for all of us.
After those struggling periods, I have formed a Covid-19 volunteers’ group to help people in my locality and residential complex in getting oxygen support, hospitalisation, medicines and food at the doorstep.
We even have an ambulance facility with oxygen backup for Covid-19 patients and my wife and a few others in the complex will offer meals to those who are down with the virus in our residential complex and locality from May 1.
Presently, I am working on setting up a six-bed Covid care centre in the community hall of our residential complex with telemedicine, nurse and virtual doctor consultation services. Talks are on with a private company to provide this medical support.
Last but not the least, impressed with our initiative to help Covid patients, a well-known private hospital called us up and offered to set up a camp for vaccination inside our complex for all eligible residents.
My personal suggestions to those who are passing through the same phase is don’t panic and keep a medical setup handy (and regular consultation with doctors) to deal with sudden emergencies.
Once again, I would like to extend my gratitude to all my seniors in the entire group in Delhi and in Mumbai for standing by and inquiring about me and my wife during the crisis.