My family’s encounter with COVID-19

Before you begin reading this article, please remember to not take whatever I have shared as a replacement to the doctor’s advice. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a doctor (preferably a family doctor) to seek medical advice and if you or your loved one are experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms, please get tested immediately.

What we have been doing to stay safe

When 3 generations live together, it becomes vital to protect the vulnerable age groups — the seniors and the children. We coped with the mandate to stay at home, work from home, lived a maid-free life for more than 2 months. We were the last in the lot to get a cook home who agreed to do other chores so that we have minimum outsiders coming home.

Most of the shopping was via e-commerce sites and we did step out 4–5 times to lifestyle and tech shops though because some things could not be done online. We ensured that our masks were always on, that the shops we visited did not have more than 3–4 customers, and had the sanitizing protocols in place. We hardly missed sanitizing our hands before leaving the car and after entering it. So for each shop visit, we sanitized 4 times-inside our car, at the shop entrance, the exit, and finally, after we are back in the car.

We learned the new ways to navigate in these shops where you remind yourself not to lean on the railing, touch the tables, or any artifacts that weren’t under our scope of shopping- strictly no window shopping.

From the beginning of this episode, my homeopath parents had kept all of us on the Arsenic Alb medicine which was prescribed by AYUSH too.

How it all started

It was the onset of monsoon and change in the weather. Abhi (my husband) has a history of catching the flu and getting mild fever during seasonal changes. When he complained of a sore throat and mild fever, we knew the answer had to be Belladonna — coming from Homoeopaths family, we have learned a thing or two about our body compositions, symptoms, reasons, and ‘our medicine’.

With my parents’ intervention, we saw him recover within 3–4 days. The temperature did start to drop, but then after a day or two, it started to rise again. That’s when we noticed some erratic ways the fever would rise and drop. On the recommendation of Abhi’s childhood friend who studied medicine and my uncle who is a retired doctor, we got the fever panel test. We were happy and confused when the result came out to be negative.

As we have lived a restricted life, with a high degree of precaution, almost all of us, including friends, family, and colleagues were sure that there was no chance of contracting the virus as we have been very careful. But just to rule out that 5% chance and gain mental peace, we decided to get the Covid-19 test done. This was around the 8–10th day of the fever already. Around the same time, Abhi felt some change in the taste as he experienced a metallic taste in the mouth. I thought it was because of the medicines he’s been taking off late.

In retrospection, I think we lived too long in denial and should have gone under self-isolation even before getting any tests or waiting for results. This is very important learning for us and would recommend everyone to notice your symptoms. Even if it’s just one of the many listed by WHO, without any delay isolate yourself.

We were blessed to be under the guidance and supervision of 3 doctors — all who are close family members and tight childhood friends worked in close coordination to decipher the condition and continue to do so even now.

I was amidst my research interview session when I received a call from my uncle informing me that Abhi was Covid-19 positive and that he’s already fixed our appointment with a doctor whom we were to see him in the next 45 minutes.

Of course, none of us were expecting to hear this and did not have any reference to know what to expect next. All I asked him over the phone was he will need to get hospitalized. Should I pack his clothes?? All the horrifying videos that we had watched of people reporting from ICU on social media flashed in front of my eyes. I didn’t know if all positive cases face such difficulties. Are there any degrees of severity of this illness?? Didn’t know if we should let our girls know where we were heading too?? Say bye, say we’ll get back in an hour or when to expect to see their dad again. Uncle had assured me that there are high chances to get back home, but there wasn’t a sense of guarantee. With all the fears looming over my mind, putting up a brave face, we headed out of the home. A 30-min drive never seemed this long.

The doctor at the hospital wanted us to get the CT scans done. I, being his primary caregiver for all the past 10 days and someone who has been in close contact, was also asked to get the CT scan done. Those 45–60 minutes were the worst moments of my life. I was dreading to see the reports. What if both of us were positive? Who goes back home? How will kids and parents manage while we may need to be at the hospital?

Finally, the scans were shown to the doctor who declared that I look fine and needn’t get my swab test done. Abhi was advised home isolation and the doctor prescribed a few medicines. It was just 2–3 hours since we got his swab test reports and so much had already happened. We went through the classic narrative arc. Fully aware that the story hasn’t finished yet. The road ahead was challenging and we were like the military pilots getting ready for a war by saying “cheese”!

On our way back we decided to get back to normal, play some music in the car, chit-chat, and just when we were discussing how, where… we could have caught the virus….we see a huge crowd outside an Irani cafe where people are sitting in groups, having tea at the same table… Nothing had changed…. And here we were.. despite taking all possible precautions, we were driving back home thinking of new ways we will have to live with for the next few weeks. We were now a quarantined family with one COVID-19 positive case.

The next few days were a struggle to identify a service that could do a home collection of swab samples for the rest of the family. A number of calls to all the helplines prescribed by the government, suggestions from friends, etc did not help as some numbers were out of order, did not answer, did not have all the required information, or wouldn’t do a home collection. How can a quarantine family leave home, use public spaces, and reach a lab to get the tests done? I didn’t want the family to step out and contaminate the public spaces. It was a decision to wait /delay the testing or put other co-residents too at risk by using the common spaces. A catch-22 situation, but we chose to go with the latter.

Finally, on the 4–5th day after a constant struggle, we could get a home collection appointment and we waited for the results.

Medication and care for all members of the family

Soon after the first member was diagnosed positive, the entire family was put under a 5-day medication course. Some doctors have also made informative videos about these medicines. All of us had to record our temperature, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation levels thrice a day. This was supposed to be continued for a month without fail. The records -maintained gave insights to the doctors about each family member’s health as it helped them draw a trend. All the three doctors had monitored our health based on our clinical symptoms and not just the test report. There are high chances to receive false-negative or false-positive reports — purely because the testing mechanisms are not completely set to reach an error-free rate

I have read real stories of families where they were not prescribed to maintain these records and hence, there was no way to keep a track on an individual’s oxygen levels and temperature. This has also led people to reach severe conditions.

TIP: To avoid any contamination, each of us had a personal thermometer and one oximeter for each group — negative and positive members of the family.

In retrospection, I think it was a very critical decision taken to get the entire family tested as it’s only after the tests we discovered that we now had two more family members test positive — one asymptomatic positive and another symptomatic.

Of the 6 of us, 3 were now COVID positive and the other 3 were negative. The three positive members stayed in isolation for the prescribed 15–17 days and were tested again. The results now declared all to be negative.

One of the biggest challenges in those 17 days was the need to maintain the negative status of the 3 unaffected members.

Under the guidance of my doctors, an extremely high level of hygiene and sanitization was followed. Some new protocols that I implemented in the home were:

  1. Spray surface disinfectant on each door handles, knobs, and doors every hour.
  2. Mop the home twice with Dettol.
  3. Keep windows open to let bright sunlight in all our rooms.
  4. Use hand sanitizer every time I serve food to the isolated members. We had restricted our interaction only to the door and placed a table right inside. That was our platform to exchange dishes.
  5. Always wear a mask when interacting with isolated members.
  6. All the negative members wore masks when we were together and maintained physical distancing even within our home. We ensured that we were never together as much as possible. This was the toughest part. We had to let go of hugging and touching each other. It wasn’t just tough, in fact, it was extremely painful. My younger one (who’s all of 8) tried her best to cope with it but would break down at times. Once she said, “Mumma, I never realized that hugging was so important when I could hug many times a day, I miss it now.”
  7. Maintain separate hand towels for each member. We purchased different color towels so that we don’t get it mixed up.
  8. Have a hot water bath at least twice a day.

Diet & Nutrition

We were on a high protein diet. Some of the typical items I planned as our daily intake were:

1. Tender coconut water

2. Dry fruits

3. Apple, banana- any fruit

4. Dal+ any leaves- prefer moong dal as its light to digest and high in protein and nutrition.

5. Mixed vegetables/poriyal

6. Curd

7. Eggs

8. Milk

We had to make sure that everyone remains well hydrated. This was a special instruction by our doctor.

Everyone had only warm water, green tea, or ginger water.

Additionally, we have been on an Ayurvedic immunity booster called AVR prepared by an Ayurvedic doctor. I have already shared their details on various groups. I will be happy to share again if anyone is interested; leave me a DM.

If one consumes non-veg then their options for protein intake increase, but we are vegetarians so I don’t have recommendations for that.

What I missed

It would have been nice to have a home-cooked food delivery for all those 15–17 days. Living without any help or maid and doing additional chores was overwhelming.

What helped me

Great design and technology

  1. My Skechers :) Life wouldn’t have been so easy if it weren’t for my comfy Skechers. I would have never imagined while buying them that they will come to my rescue during such days and that I would be wearing them for 12–18hrs a day. Skechers, are you listening?
  2. My dishwasher — it was such a relief to be able to have one less job to do each day and have each utensil cleaned with hot water. It was easy to maintain hygiene with used utensils, cutlery etc.
  3. Robo home vacuum cleaner — which arrived just in time. One more job off my daily chores :)
  4. E-commerce: Amazon and BigBasket were my go-to apps for all my grocery and other essential needs.
  5. Internet and virtual schooling: Both my girls could continue their school despite the new and odd situation at home.
  6. Great creative apps like Canva: My younger one used all her alone time to learn Canva and MS Paint. She has created so many posters, illustrations that are now coming handy for her project documentation.

What I’m still confused about

  • How did Abhishek’s name get missed from the government records?
  • Why did none of the government officials who called to check for the other two members and the ones who visited the home to stick the quarantine poster not have the ability to register my complaint and enter Abhishek’s name to the list?
  • If the primary patient is not traced how is the government doing any contact tracing?
  • How genuine are the numbers being charted every day?
  • Being the primary care-giver and being by his side for the first 10 days, I wasn’t affected. What could have protected me?
  • Why is it so difficult to get a home test booked?

With many cases raising each day, let us gain enough knowledge and embrace ourselves to tackle the situation. I would strongly recommend everyone to make a new first-aid kit and keep it handy at home.

The kit should have

(refer the video by Dr. Sanjeev Kumar of Sunshine Hospital https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm0eaW24EpE)

  1. Oximeter
  2. Thermometer
  3. Dolo (any paracetamol)
  4. Azithromycin
  5. Vitamin C
  6. Vitamin D
  7. Multi-Vitamin
  8. Cough syrup
  9. Hand sanitizer
  10. Mask

Disclaimer: All these are my personal experiences and should not be taken as a recommendation/replaced by a doctor’s advice. I am sharing as I have been receiving calls and messages from newly affected families to share my experiences and I am trying my bit to support them during these uncertain, harrowing times.

Shipra is the Founder & User Research Director at User Connect Consultancy.