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Six Weeks of Isolation – Coronavirus Story

The life lessons I learned and the insights gathered during my six weeks of isolation after contracting Covid-19. I am dedicating this blog to my mother, an award-winning Telugu (Indian language) writer who has published several novels, short stories and poems. Thank you Amma, for being a constant source of inspiration and strength.

Story:

You probably had your fill of people sharing their stories on social media about their experiences with Coronavirus and here is one more, but each story is different. When you experience something so unreal you feel the need to share that with the world, for we all learn and grow from these shared experiences. Coronavirus is an unprecedented phenomenon that instilled a sense of disbelief that descended upon us by transforming our world into something we do not even recognize. It is leaving a cruel mark in its aftermath – the unfortunate ones who lost their fight to it and the rest of the population grappling and wondering what the future holds. As the drama unfolded in the outside world, a similar unreal Covid-19 drama played out in our home that left me dealing with an isolation period that lasted for six long weeks.

My husband was the first one to develop the symptoms and I followed suit couple of days later. The world inside the four walls of our home changed overnight, we were trapped in the Covid-19 bubble. Our 23 year old son had to self-quarantine and became our sole care giver though he had no symptoms. The first 10-12 days were rough, between my husband and I, we experienced many symptoms – high fever, dry cough, excruciating body ache, sore throat, weakness, mild breathing difficulty, shaking, abdominal pain and GI issues.  Life inside the Covid bubble was scary and unpleasant. Coronavirus was new and deadly, there was no medicine or cure for it. Doctors were treating patients based on case studies from across the world, data from previous viruses and new research. It was unnerving reading in the news about the outcomes of some treatment protocols, but I did not let all this get to me. We followed our Doctor’s treatment plan, putting our faith in him and God.

Taking care of two sick people was no small feat. Our son worked round the clock, putting an alarm in the mornings (he is not a morning person) to make us tea, bringing us meals, medications and whatever we needed through the day. Since I am diabetic, every night he would leave a snack outside the bedroom door in case my sugar level dropped. I would hear him in the hallway and my heart would ache for him. The night-time shaking was the worst, it would lead to other worries. I relived my greatest fear each night that my son would contract the virus from us and who would then take care of him. This would lead to tears of sadness and helplessness; I would dread the nights but somehow these fears and emotions would quickly dissipate with the morning sun.

After the second week, our symptoms started improving but we were still not Covid-19 free and had to continue our isolation. In order to give our son some much needed reprieve, we decided to put a microwave and fridge in the hallway so we could start becoming somewhat self-sufficient. The whole idea of a mini kitchen in the hallway was bizarre but we had to adapt, these were no ordinary times. While we were converting our hallway into a makeshift kitchen, the world outside was adapting too. Churches, Navy ships and Schools were being transformed into makeshift hospitals and people around the world were doing their part by being in lockdown.

Our household returned to some semblance of normalcy by end of week 4, after my husband was completely cleared of the virus, however, I was still infected. I developed severe headaches that went on for days, and I had still tested positive for the virus after 19 days of treatment so had to continue to quarantine. These six weeks of isolation were not easy. I started getting a brain fog the last couple of weeks being deprived of the sun and fresh air. We are used to a world of quick fixes and I was approaching Covid-19 with the same attitude. I had accepted the fact that I got the Coronavirus and had gone through the motions of being sick and in bed but now I wanted it over and done with.  When I look back, I realize things worked out the way it was supposed to, it was universe’s way of slowly bringing equilibrium back into my life, much needed pause that gave me an opportunity to evaluate my life and gain mental clarity. Something I wouldn’t have done left to myself, as we all get caught up in the web of life.

I see a similar theme playing out in the world. Everyone is tired of the lockdown and wants it to end. It goes back to our need for quick fixes and expecting life to be a certain way because that is all we know. But in my opinion, this pandemic happened because something has gone wrong in the fine balance of the cosmos. Yes, we all have our own theories on what led to this crisis, but I truly believe it is the cosmos working in its mysterious ways to strike a balance and regain its lost equilibrium. And things will return to normal when the cosmos is ready – there is no rushing it, no quick fixes. There is a deeper message behind this pandemic, and it is up to us to learn from it. The lessons we learn will depend on our world view and what each of us want out of life and the universe.       

Isolation:

During this time, I faced an interesting dichotomy between being alone vs. being lonely. My husband switched off his phone and literally slept 20 hours each day for the first 10 days. I on the other hand, felt the pressing need to keep things functioning. I worked the first few days, responded to messages from family and friends, and coordinated all the food drop offs while being sick. There was no time to feel lonely, but each of us were alone – my husband in the master bedroom, me in the guest bedroom and my son banished to the basement, as far away as possible from us. The three of us under the same roof but each of us in our own corners, alone. The night my husband had the fall in the bathroom and sprained his right wrist, he was alone, no one was there to give him a hand. In the middle of the night when I would start shaking uncontrollably or when I would wake up gasping for air, I was alone. And I am sure, my son faced his fears and doubts all alone in the basement with no human interaction. In my alone moments, my thoughts would turn to those patients struggling for their lives in the hospital beds all alone and few who passed away alone deprived of the chance to say their final goodbyes. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I would be overcome with gratitude counting my blessings, for things could have turned out so differently.

However, after end of week 4 once my husband was cleared of Covid-19 and our son went back to his apartment, I found myself in a different mental space. Compared to the initial weeks, I was not as sick, but the persistent severe headaches limited my activity drastically, including screen time as it made my headaches worse. This was the time when the loneliness set in. To pass the time, I would listen to podcasts and music, stare at the walls reflecting and thinking, or gaze outside the window looking for the two Cardinals that frequented the tall trees. One of them especially caught my eye each time as it was a brilliant red and the other one was brown. I remember reading somewhere that the male cardinal is the brighter red, while the female one is brown. They would come zooming in, flutter through the branches and quickly fly away.

When I moved into the guest bedroom the trees outside were filled with white flowers and I would watch the flowers wilt and fall away to be replaced by the fresh green leaves, reminding me that spring was here in its full glory, the most beautiful and my favorite season. In those lonely moments, I would get restless and impatient because instead of being busy working or running around the house doing my chores, here I was stuck in bed being unproductive. On a whim and out of sheer boredom I decided to sketch, a hobby I had given up 25+ years ago.  I got immersed in it quickly, but I would have to pace myself, as too much time sketching would make my head hurt. But the time spent sketching was therapeutic, I got lost in my own world, totally at peace.

Gratitude:

The most over whelming emotion I experienced during my days of introspection is Gratitude, as I have so much to be thankful for. To all my friends, relatives and coworkers for their beautiful messages and words of encouragement. My loved ones who virtually held my hand through this ordeal. Friends who dropped off food and groceries week after week, I am forever indebted for their kindness and generosity. I am most humbled and especially proud of my son for taking care of us with great patience and handling the whole situation with so much grace. It took a village to get me back on my feet – not everyone is this fortunate.

My story would be incomplete without acknowledging the role played by our family doctor and the rest of the doctors and health care workers around the world. The one greatest silver lining I see in this Covid-19 crisis is that finally the mist has lifted from our eyes and minds, and we see the world much more clearly. We now know who is truly deserving of our adulation and respect – the doctors, nurses, health care workers, first responders and the front-line workers sacrificing and risking their lives for the safety of ours. And in our fight against Covid-19, we had one such hero in our corner, our family doctor. He would call us almost every day to check on us, was always available to answer my questions and address all my fears. When my husband had the fall and hurt his wrist, our doctor wore his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and made a house call to make sure the wrist was not fractured. Him being there for us made this whole nightmare less scary and bearable. For that, he has our undying gratitude.

Musings:

  1. Most Presidents go grey after serving one term in office. Thanks to Covid-19, I developed plenty of grey hair in just four weeks.
  2. Suddenly everyone is an expert in Coronavirus. I received tons of advice from all my well-wishers. Ranging from what to eat, what not to eat, what to drink, what not to drink, how to breath, when to breath, breathing techniques, how to meditate……the list goes on. On the bright side, I now have a topic for my first project – “Handbook on How to Survive Coronavirus”.
  3. Worst Addiction – my iPhone!! I suffered from major withdrawals during the headache phase. Involuntarily my hand would reach out for my phone only to be reminded that it is switched off!!
  4. Fretting, fearing and worrying when you are not in control of the outcome, is exhausting. To overcome this shortcoming, after much contemplation, I arrived with the perfect title for my self-development project – “Subtle Art of Not Giving a Crap – When Things Are Not in Your Control”.
  5. Major eyeopener – Time flies doing NOTHING!! Retirement will be a breeze being busy doing nothing.
  6. Covid-19 was a true test of patience for a clean freak, OCD maniac like me. Laid up in bed I would dream and plan about cleaning and disinfecting every inch of my house. You know you are in menopause when you start fantasizing about ‘Mr. Clean’!!
  7. Mankind’s love for food has never been showcased ever so vividly than what we have witnessed during the Coronavirus crisis. Social media filled with images of people posting pictures of their culinary talents and eating like it is Thanksgiving. I too participated in this obsession somewhat passively. I would wait for the delivery of the hot meals from my friends and gobble it up even though I had lost all sense of taste and smell. Proving yet again that we are all epicures and foodies at heart.
  8. Biggest Revelation – spiritual retreats, fad diets and detoxes are all bogus. Searching for ‘Inner Peace and Happiness’ is over-rated, no point dwelling on it. Enjoy every moment of your life, Party, have fun and live life ‘King Size’- because you don’t know when the next Corona is going to get you!!

I hope many of you can resonate with the life lessons I gained through this ordeal. I sincerely wish that these takeaways allow us to grow as people and collectively make us stronger and more well-balanced.

In the new world of social distancing……………… “Namaste”.

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