Almost losing a life : Pandemic Scare
On March 24, 2020, as the Prime Minister of India ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, our lives hit a standstill and things haven't been the same since. However, later did I know then that as quiet and deserted as these streets were getting, my house was going to turn the exact opposite, especially during a pandemic widespread.
I live in a joint family and share a home with my parents, a brother and the eldest member of our family, my grandmother; a 92- year- old lady, and a wife to an ex-Airforce officer. Being a woman of age, my grandmother’s health had already been deteriorating and other than her heart problems, she was diagnosed with a serious osteoporosis condition that had caused a deformity in her backbone. Watching her in constant pain and bed-ridden was already difficult for the family, yet somehow together we were able to cope up with the situation.
However, the next 20 days of the lockdown proved to be a dreadful period for the family. As we progressed through the lockdown, my grandmother’s health started becoming worse. She developed an infection in her intestines and wasn't consuming any food offered. Concerned about her, even during the pandemic scare, she was rushed to the hospital where she was prescribed certain medicines post the test.
Keeping in mind her age and immunity, the doctors advised not to bring her to the hospital again unless urgent; she was released after being kept 24 hours under observation. When brought home, our lives started revolving around her. I clearly remember my mother working in a clockwork fashion around the house ensuring that all her necessities, from showering to eating, are met; Yet, nothing seemed fruitful. My grandmother's health kept on deteriorating with an even faster rate and the medicines prescribed by the doctor didn't seem to do any good.
Even after frequent consultations and change of medicines, we saw her become pale and frail in front of our eyes. After a week of her constant struggle, her symptoms got worse. I still remember that night when the entire house woke up at 3:00 a to her shivering in fever and flu.I could see the disappointment in my father's eyes as he lay next to his mother, hopeless and prepared that it could be her few final moments on this earth. Close family members were called and informed about her condition; they talked as if they were offering their final goodbyes.
The next morning, my father and his brother physically reached out to almost all the hospitals in the city, with grandmother in the car and such a situation. No hospitals in Faridabad were ready to accommodate an old lady with symptoms of flu since they feared it was the virus, and since the lockdown was recent, they weren't prepared with the services. On the other hand, my mother and I constantly worried about my father's health who was being subjected to infections in all those hospitals where anyone could be Corona positive.
After 5 hours of being rejected by several hospitals, both the sons returned home, teary eyes and disappointed, with their mother on the deathbed. This was the first time in my life I saw my father crying, a man who always held his own in situations like these. In his heart, he had accepted that he'd have to let go of his mother, yet his blood-gushed eyes poured tears of regret about not being able to do enough when his mother was taking her final breaths. Suddenly, it struck him out of the blue, that at a crisis like these maybe the Army hospital would take her in.
He made a few calls and soon connected with an ex-army Major whom he nearly blackmailed saying the following words- 'My father served this nation for nearly 16 years, does his wife deserve to die on the road?'. These words still haunt me and with the potency of sentiment they were delivered with, it got the officer on the other end emotional to make an exception and take my grandmother in, provided there wasn't any virus outbreak in the army. At that moment, my faith in humanity was restored.
After being admitted to the hospital, it was diagnosed that since she wasn't offered proper hospitalization and care, the intestinal infection, that my grandmother had developed, turned into sepsis and caused pneumonia in her lungs. Her situation was extremely critical for the next 48 hours and the doctors asked us to not expect a complete recovery. However, within a week of her admission to the hospital, my grandmother's condition improved until the point where she could be taken home safely. I remember crossing around 6 different checkpoints from my home to the hospital and being answerable to each one of them as to why we were hitting the roads at the time of a lockdown. I couldn't even imagine the amount of struggle my parents had to do each day when they visited her in the hospital and took acute precautions so that they wouldn't bring another disease home.
When I saw my grandmother leave for her treatment at the Army hospital, I thought I saw her for the last time and, the way she kept her hand over my head to bless me, she had too had almost convinced herself that maybe she won't return home again. The lack of available services and incompetence of the local hospitals subjected my grandmother to extreme difficulties.
To date, she is bedridden and hasn't been able to perform even basic tasks, such as eating. Her voice still shakes whenever she speaks, sometimes to the extent that nothing can be deciphered. She says that she's only been waiting for her death now and God to end her misery. It's not just her, I have observed my parents living with a constant fear about how her condition can become critical anytime and she has to be rushed to the hospital. Their lives completely revolve around hers, and as much as we try, none of us can recover from the trauma that we had suffered in the past couple of days.
The Corona pandemic has shown no signs of discrimination against the rich or poor although, the intensity of the impact, for each group, has been different.
by - Meenal Sharma
graphic by - Rozanne Jojo