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When your son is COVID-19 positive

By RAJESH KARKERA
July 21, 2020 08:05 IST
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'Most important were the breathing exercises.'
'Pranayam or just deep breathing...'
'Breathing is very, very, very, very, very, very important.'

Rashmi Tewari tells Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com what she and her family did after her elder son was deemed covid positive.

I live in Gurgaon. My son just went through the disease.

There are three things which you have to keep in mind:

  • Be positive.
  • Be positive.
  • Be positive.

If you are positive, everything will go fine.

IMAGE: Rashmi Tewari with Shubham, left, and Kshitij, right, earlier this year. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rashmi Tewari

One evening after work, my elder son Kshitij wasn't looking well.

He routinely drives between Gurgaon and Green Park (south Delhi), and then further sometimes to Okhla (east Delhi) and other places, since he makes PPE kits etc.

I asked him, "Whoa, what happened?"

He told me: "Mama, I am feeling fatigued. I have a body ache and am also feeling feverish."

I told him: "Maybe you are tired because you drive so much?"

In Delhi, it's very, very, hot. These kids are in their AC cars and the moment they step out, it's really warm.

I gave him some aam panna (green mango juice). And told him to have his dinner, a shower and he would feel better.

In the morning he said he was feeling the same -- bodyache, fatigued and feverish. When I checked, he had no fever at all.

I told him to rest and take a day off.

I decided to call a doctor friend in the army (my husband retired from the army) to ask if he should take a COVID-19 test.

The doctor said: "Symptoms vary for different people. It would be advisable if you come. We'll get his COVID-19 tests done. Let's see. It could be fatigue. It could be normal flu."

Kshitij drove us there. We wore our masks. I wore my gloves.

In the evening, the doctor called. He told me: "It's positive."

Further he said: "Stop panicking, m'am. Don't panic. Don't panic at all. He is positive. And just take it sportingly."

I asked what we should do. We had already isolated Kshitij in his room. We were trying to not 'mingle' with him too much.

Though we live in a three bedroom flat, the rooms are not so big that we won't bump into each other.

We were told to:

  • Isolate him.
  • The bathroom he uses should be separate from the rest of the family.
  • Maintain our distance while giving him meals.
  • Vitamins.
  • He needed to relax, gargle and steam every day and monitor his health.

 

SEE: Rashmi Tewari on how to tackle a case of COVID-19 in your home. Video: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

 

How long did it take to get the report for the test?

We went around 11-ish. By 11.30 or so, we got to do the test at the local army hospital.

In the evening the report was given to us.

Thereafter, we had to maintain a record -- his temperature, his oxygen levels, his symptoms like bodyache, breathlessness, smell, taste, everything.

We made a chart that we updated twice a day.

My brother helped me. He would call my son every morning and every evening and maintain the chart for us. That was one load was taken off my shoulders.

Did the doctor tell you how to make this chart?

No, no. We knew the COVID-19 parameters, generally what symptoms people have. We made it ourselves.

This boy never had temperature -- only on the first day, when I recorded it.

How was Kshitij feeling?

Well, he's a young man.

He actually had no symptoms like high fever or any breathlessness or anything of that type. He was just feeling fatigued and body ache.

He was cool about it.

And this isolation -- the kids don't mind it.

During the time they are isolated, they have their television, their laptops, the Internet, Amazon, Netflix. Everything they have.

And their phones to chat with their friends and be in touch with the world. So it was just fine.

Isolation is quite enjoyable (for them). In our times we would have been actually isolated (during an illness). Max, we could be given a book and our parents would say: 'Don't read it too much, it will affect your eyes. And you will get fatigued out'.

How did you manage your home in these circumstances?

My husband was not there. It was my eldest son, younger son and me -- we three.

The younger one wrote a mail to his workplace and told them he would be in quarantine.

We had to inform our society. I told them: 'My son is positive and we are in quarantine. What is the protocol which I am supposed to follow?'

The secretary said that there was nothing to be done, but that he would inform the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram.

I would like to point out here that our government is doing a good job. They are doing everything they can in this populated country.

The moment Kshitij tested positive, it was reported to the MCG. They gave Kshitij a call the next morning: 'Sir, how are you feeling? What is on your chart?'

They also immediately sent him a list of doctors. And even a psychologist, saying anytime he was feeling low he can talk to them.

The health worker kept in touch with us. Every single day she called to take an update.

They told us: 'Keep your trash separate. We will come and give you separate trash bags -- yellow ones with danger and hazard signs written on it. We will come and collect your trash twice a week.'

Generally, the MCG guys come to your house to sanitise it,.

They didn't come to our house, maybe because his symptoms were not much and they found out that he is a young man and will get over it. Or maybe because he was asymptomatic.

Our society people were very, very, helpful.

They made sure the vendors, the milkman, the grocers, the security at our gate was informed.

If any of our packages came, they would deliver them to our doorstep. I would call up for groceries, milk or whatever -- it would be delivered to my doorstep. And they would say, 'Ma'm, don't worry about the money. We'll keep a record and you can come and pay us later.'

That was really very, very, helpful, very motivating and very supportive.

At this hour, when you cannot go out you feel, 'Oh, I'm stuck'.

But people are there to do this for you. That's good.

How did you separate things in the home?

I had separate (dishes) for him. My younger son would go and keep the food outside his room.

Sanitisers were everywhere in the house.

He would go to his bathroom and sanitise and he would wear a mask while stepping out of his room.

In the mornings he would open the windows for bring fresh air into his room.

Everything was sent to him in his room, whatever he needed -- hot water, steamer, everything was given to him.

So he was comfortable there.

The children made sure I don't go there. Because I am 50 plus, so more vulnerable or prone to getting it.

Our doctor very categorically he told me: 'Ma'm, don't treat it like something very scary. Please just treat it like a normal flu. Whatever you do in a flu situation, please do that only. Just maintain a little distance. Maintain your health and hygiene and rest.'

There was no taboo on any foods. He was hungry. He didn't lose his appetite at all. So healthy food; lots of fluids.

We were also told to consume lots of fluids in any form -- water, nimbu pani, juices, coconut water, whatever.

And vitamins, of course. Vitamin C, vitamin D, which we've already been taking from before. We continued with that and that's it and happiness :).

Every evening -- as a family, since my husband was not there -- we would do a video call. All of us in our rooms and my husband from out of town. It was fun actually. Not that bad.

But yes, of course, the boys got bored. You know how it is with the young men -- staying at home gets boring.

How did you manage the dishes and the laundry?

He kept the dishes outside his room. My younger one would go pick it up. He was handling all his stuff.

Kshitij cleaned his room.

The moment he had a bath, he would put all his clothes in a bucket. We would leave it out for 24 hours or so. I dipped them in Dettol and washed them and dried them separately.

I mean this is the maximum you can do at home.

Some friends suggested we use disposable plates, cups etc.

That's also a good idea, because our trash was going as a different trash, which the MCG was collecting.

By the third day he was already fine. But the virus must have still been in him, so we maintained our distance.

 

SEE: A video account from Rashmi Tewari on when her son got sick with COVID-19. Video: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

 

Any special kind of food in this situation?

No, nothing in particular, nothing separately for him. Just good, healthy, homemade food.

Kshitij is a vegetarian. Lots of veggies, good bowls of dal, soups, and fresh juices, watermelon and mosambi.

And kada (a homemade medicinal drink) -- fresh haldi, garlic, little clove and we boil it. Instead of tea, every morning we have this.

Giloy juice (ayurvedic) too.

The doctor told me a few things which I really want to make very, very clear:

  • He said keep a record of the fever, the breathlessness, the oxygen levels, every morning and evening, at least for 10 days.
  • Consume a lot of fluids, in any form.
  • And steam. Have steam twice a day, even if there was no sign of a cold.
  • Most important were the breathing exercises -- whatever way you like. Pranayam or just deep breathing... Breathing is very, very, very, very, very, very important.

That was it.

I think we should all make that our lifestyle now. We must inculcate these things in our daily living.

And of course: Be Happy :)

What about your mental health?

Apart from the initial period, I was chilled out.

When you hear your son is COVID-19 positive -- initially, you know, because you keep hearing in the news of so many dying, so many positive -- you get scared.

Especially as a mother and when it happens to your child -- you're really, really, scared.

But after we saw that in two to three days he was improving, we said: 'No, it's fine and he's asymptomatic. He's a young man. We were sure he will get through'.

So, we could be very positive. And our mental health was like right at the top.

IMAGE: When Rashmi Tewari first learned that Kshitij's COVID-19 test was positive, she was scared. But Rashmi took it in her stride and discovered that aiming to be always happy, in spite of it, was the best route. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rashmi Tewari.

Did the MCG have all of you tested? Did they ask you all to get tested?

No. We were asked to keep a record.

I even asked my doctor actually.

He said: 'There are no symptoms and you and your (other) son are both are living nicely. Why do you want to come to the hospital and get vulnerable? If there is nothing, why do the testing? That the testing kit can be used for somebody who needs it.'

He's right We are not a rich country that we can waste a test if we were feeling fine.

If there was a little problem with me, then they would have tested. The health worker who called Kshitij would ask: 'How's your mother? How's your brother?'

Kshitij was told not to test again. There were no symptoms for 10 days. Then on the 14th day, they gave him a certificate from the MCG. She came and gave him a certificate personally.

I always feel if you change the way you look at things, then things change. That is very important.

We should make this our motto. And go ahead, not a big deal.

We can win COVID-19 with each other's help, with each other's support and a very positive attitude. That's it :)

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RAJESH KARKERA / Rediff.com