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Rediscovering anxiety, despair and a sense of smell — a frontline worker's COVID-19 battle

Rediscovering anxiety, despair and a sense of smell — a frontline workers COVID-19 battle

New Delhi: Despite being in love with the smell of something as delicious as my mother's paneer ki sabzi, the joy of being able to smell ethyl alcohol in my bottle of sanitiser after 21 days in complete isolation is something that will stay with me.

As a health reporter, I had long discussions with medical professionals and doctors about COVID-19 symptoms and how to prepare in case one had started developing these symptoms. However, when on June 3, I lost my sense of taste and smell, nothing could have prepared me for what my family and I would go through in the next few weeks.

Since the outbreak, the possibility of infection was never alien given the nature of the job but after an assignment on May 27 when I developed a sore throat, a slight sense of worry enveloped me which was first alleviated by some doctor friends who said it was nothing to worry about.

By the time I walked into Manipal Hospital for a COVID-19 test on June 5, I was running a temperature, had a constant headache and could not smell perfume two inches from my nose. Despite the fact that I had to run around for two days trying to book a slot for testing, I do not wish to sidestep the privilege my occupation allows me due to which I was able to get some senior colleagues to make a few calls and get myself tested. I cannot even imagine what others have had to go through just to get tested.

With no response from the helpline numbers of the Central government and the Delhi government to get information on testing, I was repeatedly told that only patients with major symptoms were being tested and by June 5 — the day I got tested — I had isolated myself at home. And let me tell you that nothing can prepare you for the 30-40 seconds of sheer discomfort and willpower needed to control your gag reflex while healthcare workers collect your throat and nasal swabs.

Even though my family and I were prepared for the results being positive for the contagious disease, when the result came on June 7, it was a mixture of shock and despair. I had called the hospital after which they sent me my report, which showed I was positive for SARS-CoV2.

My parents were devastated and could not believe what had happened. Despite the extremely uncomfortable feeling that swept over me, the crippling fear for my family's health quickly took the front seat as they started isolating themselves with all the precautions.

While I had developed nausea from time-to-time, my symptoms were overall the same during the course of the infection and I had no breathing issues. However, there was a lot of weakness and getting out of bed became difficult. I was in strict isolation for 21 days, with no contact with anyone. My mother was my caretaker and used to leave food outside my door as I washed my own utensils and clothes. My clothes were to be washed every day, while my room and bathroom also had to be sanitised with Dettol regularly.

I was prescribed HCQS, Zinc, and Vitamin C by the doctor and our neighbours, a doctor-couple were available throughout, answering all our queries. Dr Ajay Pratap and his wife Dr Ruchi work relentlessly to help their patients and without their help, I doubt if I could have accessed HCQS. The ordeal was finally

over for me after 21 days of isolation, when I tested negative for the virus but chose to remain in quarantine for a couple more days. However, the anxiety remained with family members yet to finish their time in isolation.

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