I tested positive and recovered from COVID-19

The view from the ward of the hospital I was staying in Haldwani. Our institute in Nainital is located somewhere in the hills on the left. I used to stand here quite often and have a look at the view outside. It served as a welcome distraction from the day-to-day activities in the hospital ward.

After avoiding the SARS-CoV-2 for a year at least, I tested positive for COVID 19 on 16th April 2021. My infection was most probably picked up during the travel I undertook in the week previous to that. The experience was really a shaky one with 5 days of stay in the hospital chilling my spines. Finally, I recovered after a couple of weeks or so, but a significant number of post covid symptoms persist even now, as I write about my experience. Fortunately, I did not oxygen support or intensive care for my recovery. This is a chronological description of the events that unfolded in the past few weeks.

The prelude:

I visited Bangalore via New Delhi on the 2nd of April and like most people at that time, I was very confident of not picking up the virus although I had taken all the necessary precautions. Everything was well until the night of 11th April, when I had a mild fever. I traveled on 12th April to Haldwani, on the way to my institute in Nainital assuming the mild fever which was present for a few hours only, was likely due to the change in weather.

The test and the wait for results:

I took an RT-PCR test on the 13th of April, still very confident of testing negative and returning back to normal life in a couple of days. But my body started developing problems that became hard to ignore. The fever came back for a day and went away, but fatigue persisted. I was sleeping the entire day and my energy levels were down. With these recently developed symptoms, I was wondering if I had contracted COVID 19 somewhere in New Delhi. So on the 16th of April when we got the report and I tested positive it was not very surprising as the classic COVID19 symptoms started appearing in those intervening couple of days. But the situation at our institute was even worrying with students and staff members testing positive and subsequently, as it was declared a containment zone, with almost a dozen COVID19 positive cases and there was no question of taking in a COVID positive student so I had to rely on the district administration in Nainital for quarantine arrangements.

The quarantine:

I was quarantined in a neatly maintained and government-owned guest house in Nainital with a view of the lake thanks to the efforts of authorities in ARIES and the local hospital in Nainital. It was indeed happy and satisfactory that finally I could stay peacefully and wait for symptoms to fade. The doctors were always available, and relevant medicine was provided along with the food every day. But, the fatigue was beyond comprehension and I was sleeping 16–17 hours a day! I reduced my activities to a minimum as I had no energy to even walk up to the balcony and get some fresh air or the view of the lake. This continued for 3 days.

The scare:

On the 4th day of quarantine i.e. 19th of April, I started having chest pain which increased during the night. This was accompanied by tightness in the chest and a lack of breath and as a pulse oximeter was not available at that time, it scared me. Immediately, I got in touch with the doctor who assured me that he’ll take care of it the next morning. The next day I was immediately taken in an ambulance to the hospital in Haldwani.

The chaos:

On reaching the hospital, I found it was in total chaos. Patients all around, people with varying health symptoms, some barely breathing, some unconscious, and a couple of dead patients was the scene I witnessed during my first few minutes in the hospital. This was the first time I witnessed the crisis that is unfolding globally in front of my eyes. I was nauseous indeed.

When my turn came, the doctors immediately took an ECG scan of my chest and took blood samples for further testing. Fortunately, my oxygen levels were normal and I did not need oxygen support at that time. Anyways, I was shifted to an isolation ward on the 6th floor of the hospital for further monitoring.

The hospital stay:

In my 27 years of life, this was the first time I was admitted to any hospital. The experience was very painful indeed, but necessary. In the COVID isolation ward, I was monitored for the next 4 days by a dedicated team of doctors, nursing staff, and other staff at the hospital. Although it appeared chaotic on the first day, as time progressed I was quite impressed with the management of the patients there. Each patient was given medicine according to their underlying health conditions. Thankfully, I did not have any underlying conditions and was given only the vitamin supplements and occasional paracetamol.

The wait:

My test results were available the next day. The doctor caring for me informed me that I can be discharged tomorrow. But it took a couple of days more for me to leave the hospital because of some mismatch in the X-ray scans at the hospital. Anyways, as I had started recovering, I talked with fellow patients in the ward. Fortunately enough, a few young people were there so the stay was not as lonely as expected. The frequent phone calls with friends and family also helped a lot. The time spent on the hospital bed was not very comfortable, but since I was recovering quickly, at least physically I was quite well. Finally, on the morning of 24th April, the doctor asked me to call someone who could take me back. As it was not possible to call anyone from my institute I insisted that I can complete the formalities myself and assured them of being in-home quarantine. Being convinced by the arguments, the doctor discharged me immediately. I sensed freedom for the first time in around 10 days. I immediately called a taxi driver and asked him to take me back to my institute. The director of the institute was personally monitoring my health over frequent phone calls, and he kindly allowed me to return back as I had recovered.

Back to my institute:

After being discharged, and almost recovered from COVID19, I was recommended a 6 day home quarantine by the hospital. I returned back to the ARIES guest house to stay in quarantine. A couple of fellow members, who tested positive earlier were already there. We talked a lot from our windows sharing the experiences of the past couple of weeks. Fortunately, no one among us developed serious symptoms and the recovery was quick. After completing the quarantine, I went back for a RT-PCR test in Nanital itself which returned negative, allowing me to get back to the usual life.

Post-COVID symptoms:

As I write, it has been around 21 days since I contracted the virus. Although no serious condition is present, I have breathing difficulties whenever I walk for a long time and occasional mild chest pain is present especially when waking up in the morning. It is not having any effect on my day-to-day life, hence I am hopeful it’ll go away soon without consulting a doctor. My sense of taste has returned, but the smell is still gone! Hopefully, it’ll be back soon too!

I learned a few lessons through this experience:

  1. Health is wealth, nothing is more important than health indeed. Barely a week of medical support made me forget everything else and focus on health only.
  2. The COVID 19 related restrictions are not to be taken casually. All unnecessary travel and gatherings need to be avoided.
  3. COVID 19 is a disease that can be dangerous for people of any age. Being admitted to the hospital, I was scared to my bones for a couple of days and people around me were too.
  4. People around matter a lot. I was constantly on phone calls with a lot of people during the 10 days of quarantine which made my stay less boring. The authorities in ARIES and the govt medical facilities provided by the Uttarakhand state government took care of me and I shall be grateful to them indeed.



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Vivek Kumar Jha

Ph.D. student in astrophysics. Interested in active galaxies. Spend time discovering advances in astronomy, popular science, travel, and new technology.