|Year : 2020 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 197-198
My journey: From COVID survivor to plasma donor to COVID carer
Iqbal Nabi Qureshi
Department of Gastroenterology, Shalby Hospital, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India
|Date of Submission||07-Jun-2020|
|Date of Decision||14-Jun-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||24-Jun-2020|
|Date of Web Publication||10-Jul-2020|
Dr. Iqbal Nabi Qureshi
Shalby Hospital, Near Zanjeerwala Square, R. S Bhandari Marg, Indore - 452 003, Madhya Pradesh
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Qureshi IN. My journey: From COVID survivor to plasma donor to COVID carer. Curr Med Issues 2020;18:197-8
I reside in the cosmopolitan “Food City” of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, where I practice Gastroenterology and Hepatology since completing my training in 2014 at the Christian Medical College, Vellore.
My journey started with a fever on March 15, 2020, 10 days before the nationwide lockdown was announced. Initially, it was just a “fever” and I thought it would subside in a day or two. Persistence beyond a week, made me think that this was not “usual.” Overall I felt fine and routine blood tests and chest X-rays were normal. At the time, social media and news channels were all plastered with news of the Coronavirus elsewhere. A bit apprehensive, I admitted myself to the hospital where I practice for further evaluation. I had no reason to believe that it was a COVID-19 infection as I didn't have any travel or contact history. Indore, in central India, was far away from the big metro cities and had no positive cases reported till then. At the time, the official line was the containment of international cases and no community spread.
It was a computed tomography of the thorax which showed pneumonic patches in both lungs which raised suspicion. No one came forward to send my throat swab for testing. I was throat swabbed the next day after requesting hospital staff. I came to know I was “positive” 2 days later when my report was flashed on all media and the front page of local newspapers. That day, I could not find a doctor, nurse, or staff on my floor. In fact, the whole floor was empty; all patients had been shifted out. There was a ghostly silence. It seemed as if I had committed some horrible crime. It was a few hours before I got a glimpse of a nurse. I came to know later that in those early days, no staff was ready to attend to me, a COVID-19 patient. It was only much later that I realized that I was Madhya Pradesh's first health-care worker to test positive for COVID-19.
My wife, who was by my bedside till then, was shifted to another room for testing. By then, I was broken both physically and mentally. Initially, body ache and fever were troublesome. Then there was shortness of breath on mild exertion, which was scary. At a certain point of time, I was having palpitations, insomnia, and varied auditory hallucinations. When doctors become patients, knowledge is a double-edged sword.
I was then transferred to another COVID designated hospital where I was placed in a cramped general ward, my misery compounded by unhygienic common washrooms, patients' spitting here and there and mosquitos for company. Mercifully, after a rather forceful request, I was shifted to a separate room.
My attention shifted to my family members; I was anxious and concerned about their status. I felt that their results were taking too long to come. There was a big sigh of relief when my wife, children, and parents (who reside with us) turned out to be negative. The reason for this, I believe, is that I practiced self-isolation while symptomatic at home. However, this was short-lived, when the next day, my mentally challenged and dependent brother reported positive. How was I going to handle this? He was clueless as to why he alone was being shifted to the hospital. I could picture a blank expression on his face. Thankfully, a bed was arranged for him in my room, where we could be together.
It was a difficult and gloomy 18 days in the hospital. I managed with three pairs of clothes. Isolation in a single room with limited resources is a humbling experience. Throughout my hospital stay, my wife, along with friends and relatives, remained connected to me over the phone. This boosted my morale and strengthened my resolve to overcome this disease. I could do nothing but persevere and I surrendered to the situation. I realized that if the disease does not kill me, worrying will. During the course of this illness, I tried to maintain my patience, calm, and positivity.
My home was by now quarantined and there appeared a palpable fear of visiting our doorstep. It was not the physical distancing, but the social disconnect we faced that stood out. Some people took exceptional interest in spreading rumors about us, while others, quite frankly, were talking nonsense behind my back. However, simultaneously, there were others, both neighbors and friends who helped us get through each day, providing all kinds of much needed and timely assistance. I have nothing but immense gratitude for them. I cannot adequately describe the flux of emotional highs and lows we went through. We should not consider this disease as a stigma or something taboo. We should try and understand the problems faced by family members of a COVID patient. Indeed we should come forward to actively support such families, not socially outcast them. Looking back, as a patient, I experienced firsthand how an empathetic health care worker can ease pain, suffering, and hurt by half. A few of my patients cried on the phone when they came to know that I was unwell. Their support was touching. I feel satisfied that I had achieved, at least in some, that deep bond in a doctor-patient relationship after these few years of my practice.
After almost 3 weeks of hospitalization, followed by another 2 weeks of quarantine at home, I got a call from the local Medical College requesting me to donate my plasma. I felt proud and privileged at this opportunity as I was among those first few patients who now had antibodies to fight this disease. I was told that two patients with severe COVID-19 related lung disease given my plasma had recovered completely. Science apart, this was the most satisfying part of the whole journey. I was now eager to join work after being cured. However, a surprise was in store. My hospital was re-designated as a yellow-red category COVID center. Hence, I now care for patients with COVID-19 disease rather than my practicing my specialty. As a COVID carer, I can relate to these patients. I can see their anxious faces. Apart from offering them good medical care, I could take better care of their emotional instability, fear, and apprehension related directly and indirectly to this disease. I have encouraged many of my patients who recovered to come forward for plasma donation and be COVID carers.
There are still so many unanswered questions about COVID-19. Right now, our best bet is to practice basic hand hygiene frequently. While maintaining physical distancing, we must enhance social bonding. And so, my journey continues.
I acknowledge support from Drs. C. E. Eapen and Uday George Zachariah, Department of Hepatology, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.