My COVID story: “I kept gargling and steaming to avoid accumulation of sputum”

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54-year-old N Babu from Chennai lost his wife to an unknown virus in the year 2017 and when he contracted COVID in 2020, he took all the measures and started sharing his COVID experience with people. He has shared his entire COVID journey in five parts…

Life is always beautiful as long as you live the day and do not predict or anticipate your future. However, the whole world has been logical or illogical, seriously predicting what will happen tomorrow and anticipating a vaccine at the earliest. I am no exception for the same. Everybody is doing their best to play hide and seek with the coronavirus, which by no means is visible to anyone. We could only boycott their mobile apps or some of their products, not this little invisible imp. I would like to share how this COVID-19 caught me in the mouse and cat game.

Disclaimer: All characters and events are real and refers only to me (Writer), any similarities with anyone else is purely a coincidence and the author does not take responsibility! No animals or birds were harmed except the virus, which is acceptable by international standards.

Thursday was another normal day for me with a morning routine of cycling and yoga and as usual office and back home, followed by evening walk, dinner and bedtime at 10pm. Normally I sleep well, however, I experienced an abnormal feeling in the stomach, something like bloating or indigestion and I could not sleep properly for the whole night.

Friday morning naturally, I had to apply for leave and be at home, taking all home remedies to make my stomach alright. By the end of the day I was feeling better and night went without any drama. As Saturday is a working day for me, I went to the office and the day went fine with two meetings. I came back home and had a good sleep.

Lazy Sunday morning started well, however sometime during the afternoon, I developed a slight headache. It got worse by night and I had another sleepless night, probably I was also running slight fever and calf muscle pain. It was bit unnatural because normally I would take Dolo 650 and it would give me

Relief, but this time 2 Dolo 650 taken in a gap of 6 hours also made no difference. Even home remedies like Suku Pathu etc did not work.

I again applied for a leave and went to see the General Physician. Since I did not have any other symptoms like cold, sore throat, cough etc, he gave me two injections and some tablets for 3 days. On taking that, by evening I was feeling better and at night too I had a good sleep.

I was feeling better on Tuesday. There was no headache or temperature, so I went to the office and continued the medication too. Everything was fine till I went to sleep at night. I was feeling so fresh at night that I could not sleep at all through the night. The whole night I was counting the handful of stars and white migratory birds flying which I could see through my windows. But due to lack of sleep, I got eye strain.

Next day I challenged myself and went to the office as I did not have any other problems, but by noon, I knew I couldn’t sit anymore and needed to take a rest. My eyes were burning badly and so I left for home. Once home, I put a cold pack on my eyes and took rest for the whole day. At night somehow I managed to sleep.

(Note: Till this period/time, I had no idea whether above events were triggered by COVID-19 virus)

One week gone, it was another Thursday morning. I got up as usual at 5.30 am and everything seemed normal till I was handed my cup of coffee at 6.30 am. On having a sip, I asked what it was – coffee or tea? That made all my family members turn to me with a quizzical look. One of them said it is of course coffee. Feeling very sheepish, I started drinking but I was slightly alarmed because I knew that loss of taste and smell was also one of the symptoms. Now curiosity jumped over me and I wanted to confirm it. After having the coffee, I asked for some tamarind and I could immediately get that punchy tangy taste. However, my engineering mind did not accept; I went to smell Eucalyptus and Vicks, I could not identify that either, putting me to the conclusion that COVID-19 virus at last touched me.

How did Coronavirus catch me is a billion-dollar question?

PART II

Fear is a Reaction, Courage is a Decision. This beautiful line got my attention on social media a few days ago. Cortisol hormone which is developed in our body only alerts us, Action or Reaction is left to us. Allowing time for the emotion to be processed in your conscious memory will guide you to act, rather than to react or panic.

On Thursday morning when I couldn’t decide whether what I was served was coffee or tea, I decided to take the COVID-19 test and conveyed the same to my family members. They were a bit reluctant, however, my instinct did not allow them to resist. If you want to know why, then, we need to go a few years back. If a few years later, everyone is given a Time Machine and asked to skip one year from their past, many of you will definitely skip the year 2020. However, in my case I will skip the year 2017, a year which threw me out of gears. Year 2017 started well like any other. Few days before my birthday which falls on 29th January, I was back home after my routine and as usual I lay down for a few minutes to rest and listen to music. Out of the blue suddenly I started experiencing shivers. I thought maybe it is chilly outside and I am feeling the same, but it was when my body started shaking, I felt something was wrong. I went to the hall where my wife and daughter were watching TV. On seeing me, they thought I was acting funny and started laughing and taking pictures, but soon to realize that it was not a joke. With a timely visit to doctor, medicines and rest, I was recovering from an unknown virus effect, which had all the symptoms of the current COVID-19.

Next day on my birthday, the virus could not withstand me and jumped on to my wife to survive. What followed was a black history, although I had taken her to doctor every day, doctors confused this with other flu symptoms which were prevalent during that time and misjudged the whole thing, which led to admission to hospital with severe pneumonia (ARDS). As she already had comorbid conditions, things became critical and she left us permanently within very short notice of less than 3 days of admission. This was the day when I felt fully exposed and shameful that I could not do anything. The virus test done on her said “Unknown Virus”. Maybe it can now be named COVID-17.

Now you know that, my encounter with this virus is not the first time but a repeat, that is why I wanted to act fast this time. I have one bad habit, whenever I hit a roadblock, I try to find some support system to overcome it. So, first hand I could remember that Mr Manoj, who stayed two floors below my apartment, had recovered from this virus. Of course, he turned out to be one of the most positive persons. He guided me where to go for testing and gave me numbers and said not to worry and call him anytime for help. I scheduled an appointment for the test and went to the clinic at 9.20am and had to wait for an hour for the test team to come. My eyes were still burning, and I was made to sit in a car park behind the hospital, where temporary arrangements were made for taking the test.

Soon one more person joined me to take the test. The test team arrived, changed to PPE kit and took two swabs – one from the throat and other from my nose. It took hardly 30 seconds and after completing the formalities and payments, they informed me that the test results will be known next day. I was told that I can meet the doctor after getting the result, however I insisted to see him to know what medicines to follow.

The doctor saw my earlier prescription and asked me to continue the same for the time being. I came back home and got into my room to quarantine myself in advance. One thing I have been taught is to “Be Prepared” for anything. So, should an emergency occur, I started sending my daughter all the insurance and other important details. Naturally she got annoyed, but I had to tell her that she would be required to take care if need arises and this will help. Of course, a reluctant face with clenched fist showed up saying, if the results come “Negative”, I will punch you.

Meanwhile I also checked with Dr Aravind, a resident of our society on how to go about it. He patiently (He is a Doctor, I am the patient) told me how things are managed in the hospital, how I should take care and monitor my SpO2 and how to get admitted if required. A good crisp and neat advice.

Meanwhile in the evening I spoke to Mr Manoj again, which gave some more boost and confidence and he asked me if I have an Oximeter, (I had already ordered one but it was expected the next day). Knowing that it is yet to come, he gave the one he had. I also came to know from him that he consulted an Ayurvedic Doctor. I spoke to that Doctor and she also said she can take care of me and asked me to send all details about me and family members and she could send the medicine. Now all set for the show. 9.30pm, I had dinner and was winding up for the day, when a tinkle came in my mobile, which was from the clinic, of course the result. When I said the result had come, everyone in the house went stone silent. When I shared that it was “Positive”, I could see tears rolling down my daughter’s cheeks. Should I be happy that someone is there to shed tears for me or should it be a concern. Fear or Courage. With a billion-dollar question still hanging around.

PART III

If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars. The quote by Mr. Rabindranath Tagore suggests that if we focus only on the negativity, we might miss the brighter side of things. Yes, who thought India could be stopped, not for a day or two, but for more than 2 months. Many lost their jobs, many businesses closed. We did not have to go to Masai Mara to see migration of a kind, India saw the biggest migration of people back to their villages after Independence. When one door closes, another opens.

People started getting adapted to the new normal. There was no public transport, but still people were moving and offices were working. Air became clean, the monsoon became generous, the Ozone hole got sealed, Namaste became the new norm.

Friday morning, I mailed my report to my office and applied for leave. I also informed the society, as I have to be necessarily in quarantine now. My world was small, as small as my room of 12×12 now.

I have always wondered how this Aadhar will be of help to anyone other than for address proof. As I had given my Aadhar and mobile number while taking the test, a flurry of calls started coming throughout the day from various government departments. Starting from Municipality, Village, District Corona center and police department asking details of my whereabout and details of family members etc. etc.

Initially I found it a bit annoying, then Mr Manoj said, start enjoying it, it is part of their job. Then I realized how the government mechanism has been programmed to handle this COVID-19 situation when someone is tested positive. It was really a good system in place. I am a politically neutral person; however,

hats off to the TN Government on this.

Meanwhile I got in touch with the clinic where I took the test, surprisingly the doctor said, they don’t do consulting for COVID and I was asked to approach any authorized private or government hospital for the same. It put me in a surprising situation, as I was not sure which medicine I should continue now. They could have very well advised me yesterday. I kept going with the existing medicines and informed the Ayurvedic doctor about the result and she said she will send the medicine by evening and I will get it the following day.

Saturday morning at around 9 am there was a knock on the door. Three health workers were standing there. They took the temperature of other family members and left. At 10 am, three more health volunteers came, took all the details and a long shot of me in their mobile. Later there were 3 more calls from various government departments.

(Please note for home quarantine, a doctor certificate is a must, the certificates are issued after doing some tests, x-rays etc.) Not having this, the health inspector will insist you to go and get it. I had two certificates, one from my Ayurvedic doctor and another from a government hospital.

One thing which gave me an additional boost was all the wishes from people who came to know about my quarantine. Meanwhile I was expecting the medicine to be delivered, however the courier never turned up, leading to an increase in my anxiety. Finally, I had to send one of my colleagues to courier office, where

it was lying unattended and brought it to me by 6.30 pm. Things don’t always fit in place, we need to figure out how to fix it.

It was time to shift from English medicine to Ayurvedic. In the meanwhile, I had slowly started accumulating things which I needed to survive in my room, so

that those products do not go out of my room. Two tumblers, one plate, a cup, a spoon, flask and my laptop. Of course, along with other gadgets like Oximeter, thermometer, BP checker, a pen, paper and a pad.

Coming to the family members, right now they were all fine and I asked them to take at most care and recommended them to maintain social distance between them. The following two days my health was good, with no signs of fever, headache, cold, cough etc., except some minor throat irritation and calf muscle pain on the first day.

Note: My Schedule drawn for the next few days by my Doctor and Daughter.

Time Medicine Solid Food Liquid Food Other Activity

6.00 Morning Routine

6.15 Breathing exercise

6.30 Checking Vitals

6.45 Salt Goggle

7.00 Green Tea

7.30 Tablet/Kasayam Bath

8.00 Rice/Wheat Kanchi

8.45 Steam

9.00 Tablet

10.30 Tablet Checking Vitals

11.00 Sundal

12.00 Salt

Gargle/Tablet

12.30 Kasayam Soup

13.00 Rice, Sambar, Rasam

+ Veg

13.30 Tablet

14.30 Checking Vitals

15.00 Tablet

16.00 Steamed Fruits

16.30 Tablet

17.00 Salt Goggle

17.30 Green Tea + Breathing Exercise

18.00 Tablet

18.30 Checking Vitals

19.30 Kasayam/Tablet

20.00 Chapathi/Iddiyappam

20.30 Steam

21.30 Good Sleep

Note: Initial two days took English medicine, Dolo 650, HCQL and CDZ, later changed to an Ayurvedic tablet, of very small quantity, a rice size. Special medicated hot water. Kashayam (again Ayurvedic). I ate food without oil and spices. I was monitoring my vitals initially once in two hours for the first two days and then changed to this schedule.

Whenever free! I liked to keep myself engaged with music or speaking to someone.

Part IV

It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. The quote by Father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhi, who believed we can gently shake the world, is most apt which can be quoted on his birthday.

In 2018 I took a major decision to change myself in terms of fitness, both inner and outer. I used to follow Isha Yoga, Sadguru talks and videos, which inspired me to take the 7 days Inner Engineering, which was conducted near our Society. They teach how to look for peace within us and not around us and also the powerful Shambhavi Mahamudra techniques. It made me calmer, less anxious’ it also helped me work on my anger and I generally felt more relaxed. Speed of my car came down to 70 from 100 on average (Even on highways I don’t cross 90 now). In short, more blissful.

I practised Shambhavi in the beginning and later also tried another technique taught during Shivanga. Wondering why I am saying this? Well, recently I challenged some of the youngsters to bend and touch their feet, surprisingly most of them could not do it without bending their knees. It clearly shows low levels of physical activities. Your mental and physical strength plays a very important role in overcoming many of your problems in life including Corona.

Probably my walking and cycling with this Pranayama gave me the strength to avoid any major impact of this uninvited guest. I request all those who read this to make it a point to do some sort of physical fitness or yoga along with breathing exercise, which will give you a lot of boost, both morally and physically. A knowledge which is not applied and fitness not maintained is of no value.

Coming to my billion-dollar question! How did Corona caught me? Small analysis. On an average corona takes 3-5 days to show its effect. Don’t take it strictly, it is only an average. Let us do some reverse analysis. Refer back to my Part I. On 24th I took the test and got confirmed Positive, so probably infection could have started on 19th. I had a headache and fever on the 20th, which means it could have infected me on the 15th itself. I also had a stomach upset issue on 17th night, which means it could have infected me on 13th. So, the tentative date of infection falls between 13th to 19th . Previous Sunday, I had relatives and they left after 4 days. I was hardly with them and mostly in office and as I was the only one affected, this is ruled out. Monday, Thursday and Saturday too I was at work, with no outside work, so these dates are ruled out as no one else in the office was affected. In the office, strict SMS safety is followed. Friday I was at home, so this is also ruled out. That leaves me with Tuesday and Wednesday. 15-Sep-20, Tuesday, I went to Sriperumbudur to meet one client and two more clients at Ambattur. One of the clients at Ambattur met in a small cabin with 3 people inside without a mask, a high-risk scenario. On 16-Sep-20, Wednesday, I went to Oragadam and met 4 different clients. Here I met one of the clients in a small AC visitor room, however, this is ruled out as we were the first visitors. In another client’s place, I sat on a sofa with a mask on, as the meeting rooms were engaged, although reception was large and ventilated – close proximity flags as a high-risk scenario 2. Most probably Scenario 1 could be the culprit, as these people did not have masks and the waiting and meeting was for almost 30 minutes. Who is at fault? Of course it is me. A small room of 7×7 with 3 people without wearing masks is a red alert. Although I had the mask and sanitizer, the other side forgot to follow the SMS (Social Distancing, Mask and Sanitizing hands)

Learning never stops, you learn by reading, learn by experience, you also learn by exposure, whatever way it is, it is never ending. I request everyone to be careful, especially the above mentioned situations can happen in shops, transports, offices and many such public places. Let us avoid such places and educate as many as possible to be safe and follow safe practices.

Part V

All that is Creative, is thought with a childlike mind. If you need to be creative, you need to be curious like a child. Curiosity has been a part of me always,

not as an engineer but even otherwise. Why, What, When and How will hound me if something did not fit or answer is not found. Some will get solved in hours or days and some have taken years. Many times I got answers in the middle of the night or early morning.

This Coronavirus also has given me a lot of surprises, anxieties, mood swings and all together new experiences. The moment you know that you are hit by the virus and the test confirms positive, the first question is “How did I get this?” The billion-dollar question! We always believe we are extra cautious and we will not get it. The second question or concern will be, have I passed it on to someone knowingly or unknowingly, especially to the family members? My concern was more of this. First 2 to 3 days I kept my fingers crossed. I had even ordered medicines for my family members to be on the safer side. But I was happy to know that I had not.

Most important part is that, when you are hit hard, don’t ask “why me?” always ask what can I do to come out of this or make things better, this will give answers or resolutions faster than the first question. The first question will only highlight the problem and lead you deep into that instead of solution.

First 2 to 3 days my anxiety levels were high, regarding quarantining myself properly, not to infect the family members, not getting more infection myself etc. My mood was not so good, I did not listen to music or see movies on the laptop. Added to that, every two hours I was checking the vitals. Every time I put

the SpO2 meter, I would be worried if it would show 98% or less. Fortunately, it was steady 98% all through and only after 4 days I started feeling comfortable that it would not or may not drop.

Then came the medicine itself switching from English medicine to Ayurvedic, this is the first time I am trying Ayurvedic, that too through telemedicine mode. It was a good decision by me or a good suggestion by Mr Manoj. The moment I switched over to Ayurvedic, within 24 hours the first thing I noticed was that my body became free, which was not so while taking English medicine, where I was feeling heavy.

Many people who had taken English medicine called up and checked that I must be feeling very tired, weak etc., I said “No”, I don’t feel any of that. Also, what I heard from my daughter was that the Kashayam was too bitter, they were also taking Kashayam for a week, not the tablet, but it did not matter to me, as I did not have the taste!

Interestingly I noticed that when I started taking this medicine, I would suddenly wake up in the middle of the night with a burst of a strong smell. I initially thought it must be a dream, but it happened on 3 nights and then I realized it is strange – either my brain is playing a trick or medicine is trying to unblock my smelling

Sense. It was like suddenly I woke up with the strong smell of Talcum powder, Deep fried Coffee, Smoke, Onion etc. In reality, nothing of that sort was actually there. The smell stayed for a second or two and then vanished. It sounds crazy but maybe some other COVID-19 experienced people can throw some light on

this if they had a similar experience.

One thing I maintained or followed was to look good and feel good. Even if we are sick, we should avoid reflecting that on our face as much as possible, for two reasons, one you will feel better when you look at the mirror and second you will not put your people around you under concern.

Knowing about my quarantine, many people called and gave a lot of advice on how to take care, many of them had suggested the age-old Kashayam techniques rather than English medicines.

Steaming and Gargling were other popular pieces of advice. Many even have called up asking if I needed any help. It gives me a good feeling when you know good people are out there and they have concern for you.

When I started publishing my “Encounter with Covid 19”, there were calls claiming they also had such symptoms and they have become alright without getting tested or taking Corona care, but now suspect it could have been Corona. Some people called up to know how to go about it as they also have symptoms and some are waiting for the results. Hope my blogs could have helped some people. If you have any doubt about your symptoms, it is always better getting it checked. Fear not. Early deduction will give you the extra advantage to get well soon. Little bit of anxiety and nervousness will be there, that is normal, that will only keep you alert and make you take precautions. Take advice from doctors, follow the protocols, eat and sleep well. The recovery rate is more than 99% for people below 60 years.

This Covid virus is crazy, it can develop any symptoms or no symptoms also. Many will start with Sore throat and fever/headache or Cold and cough or loss of taste and smell and many other symptoms like Red eye, Stomach problems etc. These symptoms need not be in any order, you may develop one or more symptoms on the go in any order. Most important, do not allow any sputum to accumulate in your throat, gargling and steaming at regular intervals will eliminate this along with your medicine.

After the 8th day I regained my smell and taste fully, upon which my doctor had asked to include Ghee and Oil in diet, along with fermented foods like Idly and Dosa followed after 2 days and finally the Milk and Milk products after another 2 days.

Meanwhile there was one call from the police department on the 8th day to verify my status on quarantine. After 14 days of quarantine, although the test is not compulsory, I had to do one for resuming office, so I took one more test on the 15th day. I informed the health inspector about my wellness. He said no issues as after 14 days you are free to move out; my, Aarogya setu turned green. However, as an anticlimax, the next day my test result came as positive with CT value of 28 (Low Positive). My anxiety levels increased again as I could only resume office, after one week of producing “Negative” results.

After 14 days, RT PCR showing positive is very rare unless you are seriously ill. MOHFW itself states that the test is not required after 10 days and 3 consecutive days if you don’t have fever. I did not have any fever in the last 14 days and no breathing problem or any symptoms except loss of smell and taste which also regained fully in 8 days. The second result (Both tests were taken at the same place) gave me some suspicion as it was in plain paper and not in letter head as was the first report. The report also did not carry the SRF number, which is mandatory. It looked like private labs are up to making money.

So, I decided to take another test and on the 18th day, I took a test on GH at Chengalpattu for a change. Being Sunday, there was no rush, hardly only one person was there, otherwise normally on week days there will be a queue. The place of testing was clean and neat, it was a surprise. People working there all were wearing protective kits. More importantly the test was free, whereas in private you have to pay Rs. 3250/-. Finally, on 12-Oct-2020, the report from Chengalpattu Medical College came out as “Negative”, which was a positive outcome. Fortunately, I had not lost much weight also, just a kilo lost. I am awaiting to start my regular life after a safety week. I am happy that I broke the chain without passing on to anyone.

Use of Aarogya setu app will tell you the nearest testing centers, Quarantine Centers and hospitals and also if there are any people nearby who have tested positive recently. Make use of it.

In this short journey with CoronaVirusCorona Virus, I am thankful to many people like, Mr. Manoj, Dr Aravind and Mr. Sankaran family, Mr. Paddu and all the well-wishers of our society. Friends, Relatives, Colleagues and Vendors who had extended their help, shared their thoughts and wished faster recovery.

Although I should not thank my family members, still they meticulously took care of me with high risk. I hope whatever I have shared will be of some help to everyone. With this I bring to Happy End my encounter with Covid 19. Be Safe and Stay Safe.

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