Negative - The New Positive
Negative - The New Positive20 mins 607 20 mins 607
Negative – The New Positive
It is a very rare moment when I am struggling to find a right title to what I am about to write. Otherwise titles come rushing in, less the content. But whatever this is I don't want to make it sound like an account of events but rather the experience and emotions which we all went through where situations tested us for the very first time for unseen waters.
Nonetheless I will start –
We (Read as the Joshi family for most of the time) were all a bit out of weather in early July when the rains had just picked up and it's about time when most of the local Lonavala people prefer to stay indoors let alone Covid or no Covid.
Summing it as just another climate change effects we took to rest and continued with our chores with a mere dose of the regular homegrown but Uber effective remedies on cough and cold.
What was different this time was that Mom struggling with acute back ache and complaining almost every hour that it was excruciating. From a quick trip to the Ortho we were passed on to another local hospital for a back X-Ray and finally had a High Mg dose which she couldn't quite take in. One thing led to another and she complained of drowsiness and hardly was her usual self, biking around in the city or been in the kitchen early morning and midday or been pushy for her daily dose of Marathi serials when I take over the remote.
Let her rest we thought as the best remedy to get over it. But this persisted and we had to take her around one of the reliable Doctors I know – Dr. Abhay for another checkup.
This time things looked serious as her 'supposed to be' black and white chest X-Ray was almost white with little dark patches in between.
Dr. Abhay was worried and got someone to put an oximeter on her finger. The little Yellow Light read – 76 which worried the Dr. even more. We been new then in the game of 'oxygen saturation' and 'X-Rays' were worried but more anxious about what does it all really mean?
After some deliberation and scrutiny Dr. Abhay arrived at the conclusion that she needs immediate shifting to better hospital with ICU provision just in case. If it was not Dr. Abhay suggesting I probably would have taken her straight back home as she looked okay otherwise, definitely not a patient who needs an ICU. Later we discovered that this call was so vital at the way things shaped up in the days to come.
And here we are at one the sprawling hospitals in neighborhood town of Kamshet.
The word sprawling somehow communicates everything I want to say about the hospital isn't it? The half-practiced smile, the fake polite manners and the every so friendly looking staff uttered the first golden words - 40k Deposit Sir is our standard policy J before we take in the patient. The medicine store man in the same hospital needed to have his share and a good 10k worth of medicines were pulled out based on mere symptoms even before the actual diagnosis. Believing that we should be out of here in a couple of days we paid off and bid Mom a quick good luck and bye-bye so that we could return in the morning and be back for the Doctor's meeting and diagnosis. Little did we know we are not going to see her for a while.
17 Jul the dreadful yet expected news hit us that she is tested positive for Covid19. The treating Doctor at the Kamshet hospital sent me PDF over whatsapp. Even before I was done downloading it Truecaller on my phone showed a new no. from local municipal corporation officer.
"We know about the result about your Mom's test, you please stay indoors we are coming to you. Nobody goes out and nobody comes in, we will be there with our Doctors soon."
This is new, Did we just commit a crime or that's what they call home quarantine? In any case we had to wait for them to come.
To add to our agony the hospital Doctor called to convey that given Mom's critical condition we need to administer a drug not so easily available – Remdeceiver. You need to arrange it somehow from Pune/Mumbai basically wherever on earth just arrange it.
On one end is the team of Doctors making us parade down in the lobby and talking to us from a 'Safe' distance and other end is the endless hunt over the phone for the Drug.
After taking a quick oximeter test which failed to prove anything we were now bombarded with interrogation – Who did you meet in last 2 weeks? Where all did you'll go since then? Give us the phone number and address of whoever you met. Boy this is endless I thought as people from all hierarchy in this team of 8 asked us the same questions.
We will need to take a swab test and for that you will have to come to the quarantine center they said.
One of our family Friend in that team poked me aside saying it will only be a day so take some clothes stay overnight and we can be back in a day. As if we had much choice we nodded and followed.
Before we could vacate and lock our home a duty-bound janitor sprayed off sanitizer all over our place (Sofas, Walls, Kitchen, TV basically any physical object included).
On the other end I had disclosed the news on our friend's group with who were now alert and calling for any footwork required.
The Remdeceiver was still to be arranged and to get the task done Sagar-Madhura came in to rescue putting on their network to work.
With a few calls Sagar moved things and made the sporadic drug available from a government hospital in Pune. It was later picked up and delivered by my cousin Vikrant (despite restricted intercity movement) all the way to Kamshet.
I had made more calls to Sagar in a few hours than in last 20 years.
The quarantine center -
Room No. 13 that too on a Friday – quite an auspicious (or rather suspicious) event I said when we entered our quarantine room.
Though taken care by the government authorities the room was surprisingly clean with basic necessities in place.
With a quick bite we slept off hoping to be out in a day.
This begins the mark of the most stressful and testing month of our lives.
To fast forward the set of events here, we were tested the very next day however with a weekend in between which we later realized we are here to spend unwanted 3 more days at the center.
As you can imagine no one goes in no one goes out and you get your food and breakfast served right in.
If you have spent some unfortunate time under enforced observation of some kind you would know the kind of hell that breaks inside you. And here we are with no proper reason to be held but with some 'government protocol' which no one understands, deprived of the movement into the outside world.
The irony of the situation which doesn't seem to be answered till date is how do you keep suspects in a quarantine center where neighborhood buildings are filled with positive Covid patients?
Aren't the suspects all the more vulnerable?
But hey we are in the Learning Curve aren't we? So who cares if a few people suffer.
Having coped up well for 2 days finally my Dad gave in and couldn't take it more.
They say something about team morale which dies off with every member giving up and that's what exactly started happening with us.
The only exception being my son Neil. If it wasn't for Neil we could have never coped up with our days there. For his age I know he was already a bit matured but I could see him in action trying to cheer us up all the way and not for once complaining with so many reasons to complain about.
To add to our agony the most annoying thing was yet to come.
On the following Monday morning which was supposed to be our 'Results' day our family friend in the municipal office called us with a joy of relief over the phone and breaking the news that we are all tested 'Negative'!
Failing a test sounds so much better these days so we rejoiced as much we could with that news and hoping that any moment we will be called out to pack our bags and go home.
Little did we imagine it was just the beginning of some really sad jokes destiny had begun to play on us.
With no sign till late afternoon from anyone we started warding off the rules and demanding the test results with the cops and nurses stationed at the center.
Finally with no update we called by our municipal office family friend to ask what happened, why haven't the results reached the facility yet?
As excited he was in the morning now with a lifeless voice he uttered 'There was a mistake your results are not out yet, they can't let you go home.'
I don't want to explain here what went inside me but I just hung up.
The results followed to our surprise and shock at around 10.30pm the same night.
(Which test labs are keeping open till then?)
With continuous prayers running in our hearts and an undying hope building up, our core belief and prayers were questioned with the result – Dad and Neil +ve leaving Gayatri and me negative in the test result; negative in our belief; negative in face of everything.
The staff at the facility decided our fate that Dad cannot go home with a little drop in oxygen level and would need immediate hospitalization whereas Neil was still hail and happy allowed to come with us back home. The ambulance drew up at the gate and we bid a quick farewell to Dad; where otherwise I would have never let him go like that alone today I could not do anything but watch and leave him in the hands of strangers just hoping they know what they are doing.
Being back home at around 12am was comforting as a thought, but mess as a scene. The sanitizer they sprinkled so generously had now made the home damp with layers of fungus, but we hardly complained as it was Home nonetheless.
But before we could fall off in a good slumber I got a call from Dad saying he was made to wait in the ambulance for about an hour with no one to look after or admit him.
With whatever human courtesy I was capable of then I called in the staff to check on what's the action plan now. 'That hospital is now full; we will check for another one, let's see'. Let's See???
But thankfully he got admitted in sometime into the same hospital later in the night.
Another sad joke to add up to the list.
Ever since his birth Neil has hardly slept away from us but today was different, today we had to sleep away from him. Isolating him! But the kind of maturity he has he convinced us that he'll be fine and can sleep alone.
But this wasn't just to be today, it was to be for 14 days and we knew it was impossible.
Each rising day brought us up to face something we never had; a new challenge; a new question; a new task to sort but all this sitting at home and relying on people who sprang up to help in different ways.
I can remember each day and each funny (ironically funny) challenge brought along but would not list it down as I don't want to relive itchy facts.
The one day I would never forget though was the one when I got called by the Dr. treating Mum saying you got to be here, patient is critical. It's as plainly as I can put it because even now I can feel what those words did to me that time.
I could simply gather some words asking what was so wrong when we have arranged all injection shots and every medicine you asked for. And how could I move out with the rules watching us over for been Home quarantined?
'You have to come that's it.'
I have never had any great relations with my neighbors barely knowing their names let alone their business. But thankfully my neighbors aren't so much like me. And with a Dr. neighbor by your side things get relatively under control as you have an assured guide as your fall back. Dr. Ravan as I discovered then is the friendliest and the most outgoing person you can find for anything to do on his turf. The entire country been looking up to Doctors in general and I was no different to look up to him and any other soul adding the title 'Dr.' before his name.
With an assured talk about Mom's health and a quick chat with the consulting Dr. he set up me with not only the required permission to move out of home but brought in an entire PPE kit to move out safely.
This was just the beginning of how much he did for us.
The hospital Dr. with a cold look gave me all the updates about Mums ups and downs; her X-rays her reports but only for a brief. What he quickly jumped to was that I need to keep paying all the hefty medicine bills on time as that was the hospital policy and in any case it was out of my capacity to question anything that time.
With special request and another PPE kit to wear I walked into the high isolation ICU just to see Mum and if possible talk to her. I will jump this part as its beyond me to pen what I felt and how I dealt with it, but yes we did chat and I tried to cheer her up as much as I could and I walked out of that place like a dead man walking.
Yes, she was critical. But more than that she was distraught and alone.
This disease could be known for its scientific effects and impacts but where is the record of effects it has on a person's psyche? How does one go through the emotional hell and the battle within all alone? But she is strong lady and that too I could feel she hasn't lost hope so how could I dare lose it.
With endless calls and deliberations all with Dr. Ravan's expert involvement we were also looking at alternatives to shift her out. For one the hospital in any length and breadth showed no sign of adding any sense to the pouring bills. This is the first sign when you start losing faith as you can see the ridiculous arm twisting leaving you staring at the bills like a Zombie. And for other that she needed much better attention than what was getting.
Another battle was with Dad (more of He running into battles with the hospital staff) as he was potentially doing okay but was given no proper update been in government run facility and obviously no visitors. He was more sad than sick. Though he did not show it on the face not to add to our agony I knew he was giving up on things. A gesture as little as sending some out of hospital food at times with Roshan's connect at times from extended Shetty family, went long way in keeping his spirits lifted. It was assuring for him that we are on top of things.
Each day came with not so reassuring updates on Mums health and we tucking off hospitals from our checklist where we could shift her for good.
All this while Gayatri was holding the fort rock solid back home and also facing endless phone calls. Some were filled with genuine care and assurance some with promising actions, some with newly found facts on the disease while some with endless rhetoric opinion on the matter.
The worst was a call which rumored Neil been tested +ve again and not keeping well. Only this instance broke her and though I couldn't contain myself either but I think I consoled her pretty well to ignore this rut.
It was at this point that situation could have turned me into an unforgiving atheist or a disciple for life with undying faith. I was begging God, praying God, bribing him and many a times before I went to bed threating him. She needs to be well, she doesn't deserve this, we want her back-home ASAP healthy like before. Do your miracle do whatever but do this.
With weeks passing by we had our share of SGN ('Some good news' as John Krasinski would put it). "Her X-Rays are better than they were and need for high flow oxygen too has significantly reduced" was the jingle by the Dr.
But hey how can that SGN last too long. Where is destiny with her knack for sad jokes?
The very next day the doctor gave unsure news about her swinging health leaving us more confused and unsettled than the day before. To put things in order jumped in Mahesh Anna and Dr. Manoj from Lonavala. With a knack of conversation which comes with experience Mahesh Anna not only negotiated but also helped us arrive at an informed and well thought decision – to get her out of that hospital.
With the day planned for discharge we kept waiting for the Dr. to appear until late afternoon only to give the final verdict – she is critical again!
With no choice but to leave her for another day of observation we left home and the same happened for 2 days in a row.
Parallelly and thankfully Dad was discharged (there is a potential hilarious story only on the discharge process which I will pen someday) but he was home and healthy after 10 days of 'Hexile' (hospital exile).
Given the lame and unsure response from Mums hospital we arranged for her to be shifted to Lonavala hospital where she can be kept on supplementary oxygen and eventually got back home. As the only remedy that the big hospital coined was 'Unko time lagega recover hone mei, bus oxygen aur medicines dete raho'.
With a proper telephonic conversation between the passing From to the passing To Dr. we were rest assured that we are taking the right call.
In these times of endless decisions, calls and footwork we had 2 of our allies working round the clock for us. My very own trusted Chota Rajan and Chota Shakeel (used as an adjective for getting the job done) my 2 Brother In Laws – Tejas and Omkar, one from each side. Both been analysts by profession have a knack of arriving at appropriate decisions by putting sense into mountain tasks by breaking them into small meaningful actions.
Each decision was carefully and collectively taken only to avoid the unwanted. It was life at stake and none of us could have completely been able to carry the burden of a single wrong call taken.
Finally, the day arrived of getting her out of that sophisticated hell. I could see her getting well already by simply coming out in fresh open air. With an ambulance to escort we got back to Lonavala. Like I said many times Fate was putting us through every test big or small and here comes the next test.
"She is not as fine as they told me she was" said a worried Dr. Abhay after some preliminary checks at the hospital. Despite his genuine efforts we all knew this meant shifting her again to another facility. As I sat crumbled and hopeless in the chair in his cabin he acted fast and got on a call with one leading Pulmonologist (Lung Specialist) and made sure we shifted her in the morning to his private hospital in Pune.
We thanked god again but the night was long and important.
I have stayed awake throughout the night but only for partying, studying, reading, watching movies or just thinking at times. But this night was different.
I was awake just to read the screen that Mum was keeping up the oxygen level and not dropping off too low to raise an alarm. The hospital been running short on staff again due to Covid, we had to be on our own guard for the night. Mum being on heavy medicines for over 15 days was worn out and tired and hardly ate leaving no choice but to monitor her end to end. I couldn't be disturbed now, Sleep was put on 'sleep mode'.
The night went through and up came a hopeful morning and an ambulance waiting ready to escort us to Pune. I was constantly chasing Gayatri over the phone to send in Mom's stuff from home as we needed to rush and here comes hell again! The Pune Dr. who had assured just last night of getting Mum to his hospital now changed the tone saying we don't quite have all that she needs here. Do not get her here.
I sat there on the hospital stairs with the ambulance staring in my face for the cancelled trip and vital question to resolve – What Now?
Reacting was such a waste of time, I had learnt that by now so we started off freshly with new alternatives to shift her.
By noon and by some solid footwork by Omkar and Tejas and references by Dr. Abhay we finally got a bed reserved in another hospital at Talegaon. This time we knew what we were dealing with and took every care not to appear too naïve or too experienced.
Dr. Ravan as he knew about the progress volunteered to meet in person with all the new doctors treating Mom here on. Like Dr. Asthana flexed in Munna Bhai MBBS – "Tum Jante ho Ek Dr. Ki Haisiat Kya Hoti Hai, Uska Status Kya Hota Hai?" I saw it actually that day the prestige a good Dr. carries as we were welcomed in the little conference room full of eager doctors to meet the famous anesthetist around – Dr. Ravan. With an hour-long conversation over tea with the team of Doctors, Dr. Ravan finally ushered me out for a quick private chat.
With his experience and exposure and my fresh experience and exposure we didn't have a sure feeling about this new place and new Doctors. With a quick check on Mom I also learnt that she had not been treated with anything but basic medicine since the last 30 hours she was admitted there.
Dr. Ravan left me for a while only to return determined in a few minutes and few telephonic conversations. 'We have a place reserved at Ruby Hall and one of the best Pulmonologist to treat her, I think we should move her' he told me.
With the baggage of previous experience of hopeless results and fat bills, we decided to take this call and move her again in less than 36 hours of last discharge.
With virtues more like Lord Rama Dr. Ravan jump along in the ambulance abandoning his chauffeur driven ride just to ensure the transit is smooth and risk free.
Thanking him would be an insult and in no means measure up the way he stood up for us. Accompanying me late night to Pune and dealing with all formalities he ensured she was in the safest possible hands then.
From here on I can say things really started to work for a change in our favor. It is magical to see what professional and real concerned treatment can do to a half-spirited patient. With just few days of proper nursing and care life was literally back in her.
Given periodical daily counseling with the expert Dr. (though for not more than 3 minutes) we were rest assured of the treatment plan and progress.
And with the ever so efficient nurses all hired from the specialized nursing institute in Kerala, Mum had made some new Mallu friends, almost to invite them back home when all goes fine.
From shifting her from an ICU to Step down ICU to a private room we saw it all and liked it all for the sheer outcome of it. A fresher, healthier and optimistic Mom with a newly added talkative trait. She was literally pouring all her experience out of the last 1 month which brought her to a limit to loose faith in things. With her new found confidence and proper care we saw her taking her first few steps off the bed after such a long time. It's just amazing to see is all I would say.
The day finally arrived when the expert Dr. gave in the verdict 'Fit to go home'. How much those words mean can only be experienced after a fight of 1 month and 6 days.
Though with periodical oxygen support she was fit and able to function on her own at home.
To every dark cloud there comes a silver lining they say. In this case it was the human connect we build for any help to shout out, for any gesture to ask, for any guidance to seek and for any faith to keep. This connect was the most beautiful by-product of those dark days. Long lost friends coming closer, friends helping with contacts to increase the connect for added help, blood and distant relatives standing up and newly discovered age-old neighbors.
Today I pen this experience which is after 2 months of going through it. What I felt a few days back to what I feel today on how this went and what we achieved is entirely different.
If I was to write this a month ago all the pages would have outpoured the downside and this would have not been right. Even a little time passing changes the way you look at things and that's the biggest learning I could have ever got - Not to arrive at judgements quickly, neither for people nor for situations.
Although the What if's keep coming back to me -
What if we would have spent more time in the same hospital?
What if there was no Dr. Ravan by my side to take informed decisions?
What if Hari Gupta uncle did not have a oxygen machine generously given away till date which acts as a life saver?
What if Amruta my cousin or my aunt possibly could have turned down on foot work over thinking about consequences? They have families and little ones too.
And what if it was not Mum/Dad but me on the receiving end of unwanted result? How would things play then?
Ever untoward incident had some bright side, only to be discovered later.
If we were locked up in a facility we were at least in it together.
Even at times it was a 'Bad' hospital she at least 'Had' a hospital when needed.
This is the best antidote to the never ending 'What If's'.
Looking back, it seems a combined force of people and intentions in action to get to the desired outcome. Be it Prayers and footwork by friends and relatives, be it alternative healing treatments (by Mother in Law and her team), be it cross opinions from different doctors every little thing mattered at every little turn of events.
'Thank you' is all I am capable of giving to all of them.
Amidst the worsening times all our prayers and whatever little unwelcoming experienced earned goes out to anyone who (god forbid) may ever need it.
Ó Pushkar Joshi