Surviving COVID-19 | A Timeline in Isolation with Marisha Shukla
These are incredibly hard times that are upon us. As Covid-19 continues to grip the world in a stranglehold, any sense of normalcy still evades us. While the world remains in a temporary state of lockdown, India today extended its own lockdown till May 3. Yet, in these despondent times, it is we who stay indoors who are privileged as countless many toil at the frontlines in hospitals and other essential services. Then there are also those heroes who have battled the novel coronavirus after being afflicted, and lived to tell their valiant tale. Today, we share a personal account of one such hero who has battled the odds to beat the deadly virus.
19-year-old Marisha Shukla was pursuing her Bachelors in French Pastry Art at École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie (ENSP). It was when she was at the verge of completing an internship at Potel et chabot, a catering company in Paris, that the Covid-19 pandemic had started reaching a fever pitch. She soon made her escape to India to be back home to her family. Upon landing, she tested positive for the virus. This is her account of how she battled the crisis in her own words. Read on!
DAY 0 — MARCH 13 | Escape Back Home
On March 13, a friend had called in from Mumbai about Covid-19 in panic. It wasn’t too bad, the metro in Paris was still crowded and although cautious, people were moving around freely. I wasn’t too perturbed. But things changed quickly and by the 15th everything went downhill. France was moving towards a total lockdown. All my friends were trying to get back home. I didn’t want to stay back in France, especially because I’m still not very fluent in French, and didn’t want to be left in Paris alone. So I spoke to my mom and I was headed back home on the morning of the 15th.
DAY 2 — MARCH 15 | Touchdown New Delhi
I was perfectly fine when I’d first touched down in India. I didn’t show any symptoms, yet everyone who’d landed was processed for medical attention at the immigration. The process was slightly different for people landing from different countries. A few of my friends had landed in Mumbai and Bangalore from other countries that were Covid-19 hit but they were sent home straight away from the airport after the mandatory temperature checks. Our flight had landed on the 15th night, but because we were waiting for so long at the airport, we technically received our immigration stamps, early morning on the 16th. Since Delhi had started quarantining everybody from the 16th, I guess we made the cut-off. It didn’t matter if you even had carried a health certificate clarifying no risk of Covid-19; you were still quarantined.
DAY 3 — MARCH 16 | Quarantine at Chhattarpur
We were then packed into buses and taken straight to a government facility in Chhattarpur (at the outskirts of Delhi) from the airport. It was around 4 am when we reached the facility, jet lagged and dead tired. So we just went along with whatever the officials were asking us to do. As soon as we had reached the facility, the officials took our passports again, and here they distributed us masks, a bottle of hand sanitizer and a thermometer. Then we were sequestered in groups of threes and fours into a room.
Meanwhile, all my friends who had landed after me were sent back home straight to quarantine. I was confused as to why I was here so far away from home. So I tried making calls and speaking to other passengers to find out what was happening. Did they know anyone who could tell us something about our status? Yet during our time there, we weren’t provided much information, and we were left utterly confused. We weren’t even sure who was in charge. A few people would get us food and water, but we weren’t offered any answers. We weren’t tested at this point, they just checked for our temperatures at regular intervals. Finally on the 17th night, after a couple of nights under observation, we were allowed to go home for quarantine.
DAY 4 — March 17 | EARLY SIGNS
My mother wasn’t able to receive me at the airport in Delhi since we had been shifted out to Chhattarpur. So she decided to set up camp on the outskirts of Delhi at our village Mundha Pande. Once I was released, we planned to drive down from this village near Moradabad (U.P.) to our home in Kanpur instead of taking a flight because that could have been risky again.
On the 17th night she picked me up from Chhattarpur and we went down to the village to spend the night there. As a precautionary measure, we decided to sleep in different rooms. The next morning, I was down with a slight fever, so I just checked my temperature on the thermometer and it read 101˚F, which was weird because I didn’t feel I had a 101˚F fever. I was petrified as I realised I was having a bad stomach as well and guessed that this too was a symptom of Covid-19.
DAY 5 — March 18 | TESTING POSITIVE
This is when I went to the Moradabad Government Hospital to get tested, instead of going back to Delhi. I was told that I may have to stay back for a few days to get my test results. After I tested positive, no time span was shared as to when I’d get relieved — the discharge depended entirely on the severity of the infection and how my system would cope with the recuperation.
I was there at the district hospital for 20 days from the 18th March to the 10th of April. At the hospital, I was completely isolated. There wasn’t anyone around since I was the only one who had tested positive in the whole area. It was just me all-alone at the isolation ward. I had a small room, and I didn’t have many expectations, considering it was a government hospital. But the fact that this was a very small town, it was possibly the best it could have been. They had the basics operational like running water, beds, etc.
Time of Duress
My physical symptoms lasted for a few days. The fever continued for about two days after being tested but because I was taking a lot of medicines, the temperatures weren’t too high. However, I was coughing and I had a constant headache and a bad stomach, coupled with nausea and a loss of appetite. It got worse before it got better. It all peaked when I developed shortness of breath. I remember that morning all too well, I had been following the Covid-19 news from all over the world and had read about a teenager in the UK who had passed away due to complications from the disease. It sent me into a state of panic and I decided not to read the news anymore.
Instead, I started doing pranayama 5 times a day for half-an-hour, which helped. Despite experiencing difficulty in breathing, I felt a sense of relief every time I did my pranayama and meditation. By the 12th day, I started feeling better, and the doctors began reducing my medication. On the 14th day from my arrival in India, I was tested again, and my test returned positive again. During that time, I didn’t feel anything, I had no symptoms and wasn’t under medication, just vitamins. Two rounds of negative test results later, I was finally discharged on the 10th of April.
Times of Distress
Emotionally, when I was tested, I was feeling okay because I was afraid of passing the infection on to others, especially my aged grandparents. So I didn’t mind the quarantine at all. I wasn’t used to staying alone, so that took some time to get accustomed to. I was fighting with my existentialism internally in the beginning, not accepting the whole situation. My mother, who had been in contact with me, was also quarantining as the doctors monitored her health. I was a bit stressed about that as I wasn’t allowed to see her after testing positive and with not much network, I hardly had any contact with her. However, even after all these days, she hadn’t developed any symptoms and that was a huge relief.
Home is Where the Heart is
Currently, I’m undergoing a 14-days quarantine at home as a precautionary measure.
It’s been a long journey back home. I’m still in my village for the next ten days. The country still remains in lockdown. Once the situation is a bit relaxed and we are allowed to fly, then I’d like to go to Bangalore where I grew up, otherwise, it’ll have to be our ancestral home in Kanpur.
Until that is possible, I’m trying to make the most of my time here in the village. I do miss baking and I don’t have an oven, only a choolah here. But that’s not going to dampen my spirit. I’ve been experimenting and trying to make some lemon tarts on the choolah, let’s to see how that works out!
(As told to Vinay Rohira)
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