A Rotarian doctor recalls his brush with coronavirus

Dr Ranjan Deshpande examining a child in his clinic.
Dr Rajan Deshpande examining a child in his clinic.

In the background of the shocking demise and loss of our beloved PRID Y P Das, and my batchmate, PDG V ­Nagaraj from RID 2981, both due to Covid-related complications, I am sharing my frightening brush with the dangerous coronavirus. And I urge you all to be very careful and protect yourselves and your families.

On April 6, on All India Radio, I spoke about corona and children, where I said this virus was going to stay with us for a long period. I lost a personal friend, a classmate right from MBBS, a simple man who continued his practice in a rented small building and became a victim, getting complications and dying despite the best of treatment.

In my wildest imagination, I never thought I will fall prey to coronavirus. Being a senior paediatrician, I followed all precautions of social distancing, wearing full PPE and regular hand hygiene for all. I was careful keeping kids’ parents away by two metres, and examining the children.

I was told by family members not to go to the hospital because of my age. But I did go, spending only four hours in the OPD, taking a lot of care.

Even if social norms are being relaxed, stay alert, cautious and vigilant as if it is still an emergency situation, because it really is.

On the evening of July 8, my wife complained of sore throat. Next morning, she was running temperature and had body ache. We got her tested immediately; she was positive. Two days later, I developed mild symptoms of headache and body ache. I too tested positive and we were admitted in our own hospital, a designated Covid hospital. In my 42-year career I had not taken a single day’s leave for any illness, and would tell my younger doctors and nurses that youngsters should never fall sick. “Look at me, I never take leave”, used to be my words.

Treatment was immediately initiated by my son Dr Kavan, who is a paediatric intensivist and my daughter-in-law Dr Pallavi, a clinical ­microbiologist. They were closely monitoring our health and discussing the mode of treatment with Covid experts from Hubli and Bengaluru. It seemed as though both of us had a mild infection and we were recovering with all the normal clinical and laboratory parameters. As both of us were improving, we were to be discharged on Day 10.

The next morning my wife was very happy that we were going back home. But fate had different plans. That afternoon, I felt extremely tired and was unable to talk or walk. My oxygen saturation started dropping and I started getting breathless. Immediately my son took an appointment for an HRCT scan and ECG. At the scan centre, I was not able to walk even a few steps to the scan machine and breathing was getting difficult.

The CT scan of the chest and laboratory parameters showed changes warranting admission to a higher centre at Hubli for observation and further course of treatment. The same evening my wife and I were driven from our hospital; she was dropped home and I called my two grandchildren to the gate. Along with my daughter-in-law they waved goodbye from a distance. In my heart, I wondered if I was seeing them for the last time.

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I was further investigated, put on various medication and continuous oxygen and was monitored meticulously. After three days my oxygen saturation further dropped and I wondered if I would be shifted to the ICU and prayed that I shouldn’t be put on a ventilator.

Some of the medicines used in Covid treatment were difficult to procure and not available easily. In anticipation of the worst, my son had procured injections, each costing ₹40,000. Oxygen was continued with increased quantum.

The entire team of physicians, pulmonologists and intensivists, along with Covid experts, discussed and decided to give me plasma therapy. Two Covid experts explained to me that this would not create complications and I would get better the very next day.

It was procured and I was transfused the plasma. As stated by the consultants, plasma really made all the difference! My parameters started improving, including the oxygen saturation.  But the earlier 3–4 days were a total nightmare for me. It was difficult to comprehend in which direction I was moving; while on one hand I was trying to have positive thoughts, negative thoughts kept overtaking them as age and comorbidity were not in my favour. Moreover, being a doctor myself, the worst scenario and complications kept playing in my head. But by god’s grace, I started improving.

I don’t know the nice person who donated his plasma; I am truly ­grateful to him. There are definitely good human beings in this world. My heartfelt gratitude to him.

As there was improvement, I continued sleeping in the prone position…lying on my stomach, and on either side, did my breathing exercises and a typical six-minute walk and checking my oxygen levels regularly, as this virus really attacks the lungs, and most problems are centred around it.

Timely treatment, good dedicated doctors and medical staff, right investigations and medicines at the right time, along with constant monitoring, are all important. On the patient’s part, it is important to have confidence in doctors and the hospital, and follow their instructions properly. I was fortunate to be in good hands of the team of doctors at Hubli who took care of me.

I lost 7–8 kg and found myself pretty weak. Consultants advised me to continue a nutritious diet along with medicines, regular breathing exercises and pranayama.

I was lucky, I touched the death pole and returned. There are few who have been ventilated and stayed in ICUs and have come back. I would say they passed through the mouth of death and escaped. My parents are no more but their blessings definitely were there with me. It is certainly the good wishes of family, friends, relatives, and my patients that saved me, I believe.

My son Kavan and his wife, who I consider my second daughter, slogged a lot and gave me precious life again.

I feel this is my second life which has taught me a few lessons; have the right priorities in life, look after yourself, give some time to yourself, there is no point in working continuously neglecting your family enjoy quality time with family and enjoy your hobbies. Fulfil your dreams.

So, even if social norms are being relaxed, stay alert, cautious and vigilant as if it is still an emergency situation, because it really is. Stay safe, go outside only if it is a must, and follow all the precautions without fail. Take extreme care.

Learn to serve but at the same time discover yourself and live for your family and leave this world without regrets and with your dreams unfulfilled.

 

The writer is a PDG from RID 3170.

 

Take corona pandemic seriously

Guard yourselves and opt for virtual meetings and avoid unnecessary in person meetings.

Never ever forget to wear masks and also remind others talking to you to put on the mask, covering face and nose.

Avoid courtesy visits.

Remember the only person who can help you is yourself.

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