MY TRYST WITH COVID-19! BY JOSHUA GEORGE

NO CHOICES: For covid-19 patients isolated in a room it is a bit like being in jail! They cannot even seek bail by appealing to visitors inquiring about their well being….. in case they run the risk of catching the dreaded infection

By Joshua George

More than the symptoms of Covid-19 such as fever, sore throat, respiratory problems and back pain, is the mental aspect of being in isolation. This itself is a nightmare as the author of this article discovered recently when he himself became a covid-19 patient. For a suffering covid-19 patient it may be a bit like being in a Colvale jail isolation cell! Being in covid-19 quarantine one may literally go bonkers with all freedom of movement suspended……

I LIVE in the tiny holiday destination state of Goa and the festive season always attracts crowds from the country over. With the rapid commercialisation of our festivals we have the emergence of international events and the portrayal of Goa as the Ibiza of Asia! Tourists domestic and international flock to Goa for rest and recreation fright from early December onwards.
This year, with the economic slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic paralysing businesses in Goa, the government wasted no time in wooing tourists to its shores. Not that one needs cajoling to come to Goa. However, with a rather subdued festive season in the last two years owing to the pandemic, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant decided to open the state’s doors wide open for tourists to come in and enjoy the season.
Naturally, the result was a massive surge in the number of Covid-19 cases. The number of active cases breached the 1,500 mark for the first time since August 17. While there have been imposition of a night curfew and restriction of gatherings, there was no strict follow-up by way of implementation.
Weddings involving massive gatherings were in full swing even as the pandemic stalked the state anew. The slacking of leadership at the very helm permitted the covid menace to infest the state for two years running now and I too had my tryst with covid infection.
Yes, on New Year’s eve I went along with my friends to visit the popular nightclub of Cohiba. My love for live music was the main incentive to bring in the new year to the tunes of Ragass to Riches — a popular band in Goa. I took all the necessary precautions of wearing a double mask, sanitizing my hands frequently…but on reaching the venue I was overwhelmed by the presence of a large crowd of revellers.
I know it was carelessness on my part to ignore wiser advice to say indoors! The night outdoors was indeed, grand. But the next day in the morning although I didn’t feel any symptoms of any covid I took the precauations of staying away from the rest of my family members….in case something happened. I thought I would practise some pious isolation all on my own and spare my family any infection in case I had picked up something during my new year’s night celebration out…
Three days later on January 3 while at work in the afternoon, I felt a weird and itching sensation in my throat. That very evening I was informed that two friends within my friends circle had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. While the fear of testing positive wasn’t one that I was afraid of, I was anxious about transmitting it to members of my family and my colleagues in office.
As the day progressed my symptoms intensified and by late evening I was burning with fever and a terrible headache hit me. My conscience immediately struck me that I may be positive and it would be prudent to get my RTCPR test done before even thinking of going to work the following day. That night I called up our family doctor Dr Edwin Gomes who has been attending to my family for many years years. Dr Edwin Gomes is HOD of the Medicine Department at the Goa Medical College and was at the forefront when covid first entered Goa. He along with is his team of five other doctors plunged in to lead the charge of fighting against covid and attending to patients who didn’t know what was happening to them…anyway, the good doctor sighed that I had indeed contacted the virus considering how rapidly my symptoms had escalated. I was put on covid medicine right away even before any confirmation test. The following day I did my RTPCR test at Manipal Hospital and on January 5, 2022 by mid-day I got my results which returned a positive.
Upon reading he report I didn’t panic at all as I had half-expected the positive result! Also, considering I had received both my vaccination doses, I was even less anxious about my wellbeing. The fever continued to fluctuate but the main symptom that was actually bothersome was the severe throat infection. I remained in isolation and continued to take care of myself by drinking warm water, a bit of turmeric milk before sleeping, and of course constant steam inhalations which were advised by all.
Since my brother was also part of the reckless New Year’s eve shenanigans, he got himself tested too and was returned positive like me. While the idea of staying at home and doing nothing may appeal to many, although I embraced it for the first couple of days, the isolation soon began to affect me mentally.
It was all about being cooped up the whole day with nothing to occupy my mind, but the constant browsing of the mobile proved to be my minimalistic experience of being in jail! While I was quite obdurate in my thinking with regard to coronavirus when everyone told me it was no joke, I realised how the viral infection can take a toll not just physically but also mentally.
Call me naïve and careless! I still reiterate my personal opinion that the anxiety of contracting the dreaded viral infection was never about the physical toll it took on me. While I understand the hardships whole families have gone through, I also understand the sadness of the bereaved families. Yes, this viral pandemic has been the greatest natural disaster if one may call it that in my life, although I didn’t quite understand the kind of mental toll the infection can take on patients in isolation. I had to learn this the hard way, by being a covid patient myself!

Covid-19 effect on mental health….
Perceived social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic significantly has had an extraordinary global impact, with significant psychological consequences. Changes in our daily lives, feeling of loneliness, job losses, financial difficulty, and grief over the death of loved ones have the potential to affect the mental health of many. In an atmosphere of uncertainty, it is essential that clear and precise information is offered about the problem and how to manage it.
The mental health consequences of COVID-19 are already visible and even by conservative estimates, they are yet to reach their peak and are likely to considerably outlive the current pandemic said “Chrissie Gomes” who is a clinical psychologist at the COOJ ( Cause Of Our Joy) organisation in Bastora. She has been dealing with patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia and has stated how the pandemic has resulted in the severity of mental health increasing.
“The most common psychological disorders emerging are anxiety and panic, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, insomnia, digestive problems, as well as depressive symptoms and post-traumatic stress.” These are not only a direct consequence of the pandemic but also largely driven by the effects of prolonged social isolation.
Four days into my isolation period I decided I needed to get outdoors and witness a change of scenery. Knowing full well I was still a positive and potential carrier, I decided to go for a run after taking all necessary precautions. This indeed helped not just because of the change of scenery, but I would see an overall change in my wellbeing.
On the benefits of exercise on mental health Chrissie Gomes stressed the fact of how regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood.
It took me more than a week to recover. But the lesson learnt not just from being a covid patient and the isolation which comes along with it has been immense. I am fit and healthy now but the understanding that I have gained about my own psyche and the way it can affect others is something I didn’t expect covid to teach me. It is imperative that one prioritises the effect covid isolation has on patients in such times. No person is a stranger to the condition as depression can affect even the happiest of people!

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