My personal encounter with COVID-19: Covid Warrior to Winner

Posted on April 16, 2021 at 12:45 AM

Happy to say that my family and myself have overcome COVID19 without major hiccups. I am penning this here to let people know just how contagious this disease is, and also to urge and motivate more people to get themselves vaccinated against this deadly virus.

I have been one of the more paranoid doctors, who has veered towards extreme caution ever since this pandemic began, sometimes to the point of irritation. So for the last 13 months, I have been going to my clinic wearing blue OT Scrubs, with two masks on my face (an N95 mask and a surgical mask on top of it), and a plexiglass face shield above both, to complete the attire! It is no wonder that the babies take one look at me, and begin their non-stop screaming, which continues till they leave the clinic! I examine sick and well babies in two separate rooms. Every surface in both rooms is disinfected after each patient, and I sanitize my hands at least 30 times in a day! I reprimand my staff and patients if I see them touching their masks. At home, all the help, and even visitors have to wear masks and sanitize their hands before entering the house. I think by now you have got a fair idea of my obsession and carefulness. This has partly stemmed from the dread of the virus attacking my octogenarian parents.

At the slightest hint of a cold, I have got my wife, daughter and myself tested for COVID. Three times, to be precise, and all of us turned out to be negative each time. This made us more determined to continue following the measures that we had put in place. Ironically, the only 2 persons who got the COVID bug, were my parents, despite the precautions. Thankfully, it was at a time when the COVID curve was flattening, and so we managed to get them both to hospital immediately, and they slowly recovered.

In 2021, as soon as the vaccines were made available to healthcare workers, we (my wife and I) took two doses of Covishield vaccine. 15 days after the 2nd dose, we checked our antibody levels to spike proteins (an indicator of immunity). The measurement of this is not really required, but I wanted to be sure, especially since we are both in our fifties. Our levels were way above the 15 AU/ml level, which denotes a good antibody response to the vaccine.

This was followed by a huge sense of relief and euphoria, and is probably when we let our guard down a bit. We decided to travel to Goa on a holiday, using tickets carried forward from last year that were about to expire. And somewhere in the airport, on the flight, the hotel or in one of the restaurants that we visited there, we seem to have caught the bug.

5 days after reaching back from Goa, I developed a slight stuffy nose and body ache, which I attributed to my allergies. It is only when my wife developed a fever the next day, that the antennae went up, and we got the RTPCR done. Both of us tested positive for SARS-COV-2, and our daughter was negative (she turned positive on retesting after 4 days). Our shock and dismay at testing positive was considerably reduced when we received a call from a BBMP doctor, Dr Shailaja, telling us "Please do not panic, we are there for you". It felt reassuring just to hear that statement, despite being a health care worker, and I am sure such calls provide instant comfort and reassurance to everyone in this situation.

Since then we have isolated at home, trying our best to stay out of each other's hair. Thankfully, we do not have any co-morbidities, and have been largely symptom free, most likely as a result of the prior vaccination. On the advice of our intensivist friend, we checked our CRP, D-dimer and IL-6 levels on the dreaded day 7, which were normal. We have been monitoring our oxygen saturation after a 6 min walk, twice a day, and the values have consistently been above 95%. I have been passing time with online consultations, Netflix, household work like sweeping and mopping, and trying to appear helpful in the kitchen, before I am shooed away from there.

Here are some take-home messages from this experience of ours:

1. The pandemic is far from over, and people like us who were very careful earlier, become fresh targets for the virus as we start becoming complacent.

2. Vaccination may not prevent us from getting the disease, but studies from all over the world concur that all vaccines provide almost 100% protection from severe disease, that is, it prevents us from getting major lung involvement and hospitalization. This protection is very likely to cover disease caused by the mutant variants of the virus that are appearing, and those that will appear in future.

3. Fear of the rare serious side effects should not be a reason to defer or refuse the vaccination, as the benefits far outweigh the risks. To put it in perspective, the incidence of serious blood clots in recipients of AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine (which thankfully has not been reported much in our country) is 4 per million in the UK, while risk of the same in women taking certain types of oral contraceptive pills is 6 per thousand the world over.

4. Doctors are more prone to get the infection outside their clinics, than inside, because we tend to relax our vigil once we leave them.

I will be returning to my clinic soon. Despite having received 2 doses of the vaccine, and suffering from the disease, I will still be wearing my 2 masks and face shield. This is because there is so much about this virus that we don't know yet, particularly whether it can infect you again. But the one thing we do know is that vaccines give protection against severe disease, no matter which vaccine you choose. Throughout our COVID19 illness and quarantine, we did not have to take any antibiotic, antiviral, steroids or immune boosters, because we had taken the one thing that actually boosts immunity against the virus, the vaccine! I therefore urge all of you out there, especially my doctor colleagues, to please take the vaccine as soon as possible. This, along with more sensible behavior and continued following of SMS (Sanitization - Mask - Social distancing) can help tame this virus, and get our lives back to normal. Give the vaccination drive a shot in the arm, by taking a shot in the arm!

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