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Freedom from Corona

Winners in the battle against the virus share their experience
Salt Lake residents share their tales of freedom from Covid

The Telegraph   |     |   Published 14.08.20, 02:58 PM

Gopi Agarwal

  • Age: 51 years
  • Resident of: AD Block
  • Tested positive in: March

How I got it: I have no idea. Mine was the first case in Salt Lake but no one I had interacted with got Covid around that time.

Family status: No one else at home got sick, but my son, driver and cook were sent to New Town’s quarantine centre as a precaution. My daughter has had a major surgery so she was allowed to stay home, along with my wife.

My Covid battle: I got fever on the evening of junta curfew, on March 22. I took medicines but started maintaining a distance from my family members, just in case. When my fever persisted even after a week, my doctor asked me to get admitted to a hospital and get tested for Covid.

My stay at the hospital was a stay in hell. Doctors and nurses never came close to me. They would enquire my health standing at the door. Only one person came to collect blood samples and he was so inexperienced that my blood wouldspill on the floor. Still I was charged Rs 1,20,000 for PPEs.

I had to scream and shout before they gave me fresh clothes, the room had no TV, they didn’t let me keep my phone and I had no access to a toilet. I was asked to squat on the floor and use the bed pan as a toilet! The food quality was so poor that I lost 15kg in my week’s stay there.

But at the time this was the only nearby hospital that was admitting Covid patients and I had no choice.

What’s most insensitive is that a WhatsApp message had started doing the rounds in the middle that I had passed away. Relatives had started calling up my wife to console her.

Current condition: I’m fine now and have resumed going to my factory. Since my recovery, over a 100 people have called me for Covid-related advice. I pulled through but there are many others who are in a worse state than me. I have also made a donation to the councillor to help Covid warriors.

Manasi Bhakta

  • Age: 46 years
  • Resident of: BD Block, New Town
  • Tested positive in: June

How I got it: Probably from my husband, Dibakar. He was a kidney patient and needed hospitalisation. On the morning of June 22, I set off in an ambulance, with his head on my lap, only to be refused by five or six hospitals. His condition was critical but every place asked us to show his Covid report first.

At 8pm, a government hospital took him in and collected his swab samples. But it was too late. My husband died in two hours. The next day his Covid report arrived. It was positive.

Family status: I sat on the staircase of the hospital the whole night, crying, all alone. My daughter is in college, son in Class VI. I couldn’t muster the courage to tell them what had happened. I told relatives but not one of them came over, scared of getting infected. The cops posted around the hospital hailed a taxi for me in the morning to go home.

Soon my daughter and I tested positive. We had to be hospitalised. My son tested negative but no relatives agreed to shelter him. He was sent to a quarantine home.

My Covid battle: I would inhale as hard as I could but it still felt like the oxygen wasn’t going in. My throat felt like there was cough clogging it and any form of movement would drain all the energy out of me. It took me two weeks to recover.

Current condition: Health-wise I am better but Covid has pushed me into a lot of difficulties. I used to be a homemaker who barely left the house but I now have to find a source of income, manage the home and raise the children. So scared are our relatives that they still haven’t come to meet us. Some have got Covid themselves now and are calling me up for advice. Still, the situation is teaching me to be strong. My husband was a poet and two of his books have gone to print now. I’m waiting for them to release.

Ranjit Chakraborty

  • Age: 70 years
  • Resident of: Bairag senior citizens home, IB Block
  • Tested positive in: July

Got it from: I don’t know but it all started when a 95-year-old resident, who broke his leg after a fall, was rushed to the hospital and tested positive. He died of a heart attack the next day but Kuntala Patnaik, president of Saptadweepa, the NGO that runs the home, got the health department to conduct tests for all 43 of us at Bairag and Pushparghya, their second home at HB Block. I tested positive.

Family status: Ten residents of our homes tested positive and we were shocked. None of us had been going out.
I, along with another male boarder were moved to New Town’s Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) immediately. Another lady and a 90-year-old man were coming the next day but the man expired in the car itself. Our home has single rooms with attached bathrooms so the other six boarders stayed back. They weren’t keen on moving to a different facility.

My Covid battle: We have been hearing horror stories of other hospitals but CNCI was so good that I got half-cured just entering the compound. It was cleaner than one’s house, doctors and nursing staff were caring and checked our parameters whenever we asked. Food was good and we were allowed to keep our mobile phones. Some staff members even went and bought toiletries for us when we requested them to.

The lady from our home was very scared — both at having contracted Covid and at being in a new place. I asked the patient in her neighbouring bed to ensure she ate her meals.

Current condition: I recovered after a week and have resumed normal life. I’m not going out.

Sourav Mundhra

  • Age: 37 years
  • Resident of: CK Block
  • Tested positive in: July

How I got it: Cannot trace the source

Family status: I got fever but my doctor said it was viral. Nonetheless they were organising a Covid test in CK-CL community hall and so my father and I decided to get tested.

When both of us tested positive we decided to get everyone at home tested. Out of the 11 family members and one staff at home tested, eight had Covid.

My Covid battle: Those of us who got infected stayed on the second floor of our house and the rest stayed on the ground floor. Besides a member of staff, this comprised my two sisters (one of whom is in school) and my nine-month old daughter. Our eight-year-old son was upstairs with us. 

My wife and I were both in quarantine upstairs and we were worried about how the baby would manage without her mother but my sisters took up the responsibility and she had no problem.

Food was being sent by relatives, received by the ground floor folks and our share was being left upstairs for us to receive. We washed our own utensils and clothes.

The quarantine period would have been difficult to spend had I been alone but with seven people around it was life as usual. We spent time praying, singing bhajans, doing yoga, cleaning the house, on our phones and TV sets and looking after one another. We ate a lot of fresh fruits, inhaled steam and gurgled to prevent our condition from aggravating. The elderly members of my joint family have co-morbidities but luckily, we only had mild symptoms.

Almost every day I would wake up to phone calls from panicked friends and relatives asking about the virus. I kept telling them to get tested if they felt they had symptoms so treatment could start before it was too late. Our doctor had a big role in calming us down too. One needs much mental support at a time like this.

Current condition: We stayed in quarantine for 20 days before leaving the house. Now all are fine.

Neha Sharma

  • Age: 29 years
  • Resident of: Uniworld City

How I got it: Both my husband and I were attending office. Though my office — the Liluah workshop of the Eastern Railways — is in a highly affected area, I suspect I caught the virus from my husband Dhritiman Sarkar. Being with the Bidhannagar Commissionerate, he was on duty at the airport during the Vande Bharat mission. On one occasion, there was a brawl and he had to contain unruly passengers. Within two days of the incident, he was down with fever.

Family status: Husband and security guard tested positive as well.

My Covid battle: The first few days after my husband got fever, I was going to office and he was resting at home. But after a couple of days, I too developed sudden chill and cough. On July 3, three of us went for tests at Apollo hospital. I was unable to even sit by then. Once we tested positive, we received a call from NKDA. Since all of us were within 32 years of age, we opted for home isolation. We were prescribed a course of antibiotics and vitamins. Our temperature veered around 100F. On the third or fourth day, we lost the sense of taste and smell. Along with cough, I also experienced some breathing discomfort, neither of which my husband did. I kept checking my SpO2 on a pulse oximeter, doing breathing exercises and taking cough syrup. All through, our security guard and I were cooking at home while a policeman deposited the supplies we needed with the complex guard downstairs. Sometimes we ordered outside food when we needed a break. After four days, we stopped taking Paracetamol to check if the fever would relapse. It did not. Though according to the current medical protocol, testing is not needed once 14 days are over, we still went for tests. This time, I was the only one who came positive. Though I was told it was likely to be a false positive, I still took a re-test after three days, on July 22. This time it was negative.

Current condition: I rejoined work on July 27.

Ankit Nahata

  • Age: 26 years
  • Resident of: Rosedale Garden

How I got it: My father had a heart attack on May 23 and had to be hospitalised for angioplasty. He had to be taken for check-up on June 3. I got infected either that day or on June 6, when we had a family gathering.
Family status: Six out of our family of seven got infected. Only my mother tested negative.

My Covid battle: On June 7, my father had fever. The doctor insisted on a Covid test. He could not believe when the report came positive as there was no case yet in either Rosedale or Uniworld City opposite us. He had to be hospitalised because of his health condition. The rest of us — my wife, brother, his wife and their one-and- half year old daughter- stayed home.

Our apartment was sealed. We had mild fever. We received a lot of help from our residents’ association. We just had to call the facility manager to get what we needed. We gurgled with turmeric powder and drank hot milk with turmeric powder to boost immunity. Arnab Roy, the NKDA doctor, helped us a lot as did our house physician Amit Dey. A relative gave us a kada, which was a solvent to relax the throat. On June 23, my father came back from hospital. Our association staff members greeted us with flowers on July 2 when our period of isolation ended.

Current condition: I am back to work. Last week, I donated plasma at Calcutta Medical College. I was told I was only the 25th person to volunteer this. They did a range of screening tests, including the Covid antibody test and asked me to come again after a week. It felt good to do this. Even now, I am asked by NKDA health team to call up and speak to Covid patients, which I happily do.

Debanjan Kundu

  • Age: 28
  • Resident of: Greenwood Sonata

How I got it: I was on duty in the radiation oncology department of RG Kar Medical College and Hospital. I must have got exposed there.

Family status: My mother tested negative.

My Covid battle: In the first week of July, I developed headache, fever and body ache. There was no respiratory distress. After four or five days, I lost sense of taste and smell. That persisted for three to four weeks. Once I received the report by email, I isolated myself at home for 17 days after giving an undertaking to the local authorities. An NKDA team disinfected the house. Fear was there as one’s condition can deteriorate quickly. This is not like influenza in that even mild Covid-19 can be severe. The kind of lethargy and weakness it causes is unlike in any viral illness. Our complex had a protocol in place in case a resident tested positive. That protocol was put in place and we had no trouble sourcing groceries and medicines.

Current condition: I came out of isolation on the third week of July and joined duty at the hospital on the same day. I am back to full strength now. I have also volunteered to help at the Covid care centre that my apartment complex has created for residents who are unable to self-isolate at home. Of course, there is still risk of infection in future.


Nazish Pervez Khan

  • Age: 40 years
  • Resident of: Uniworld City, New Town
  • Tested positive in: July

How I got it: Probably from my husband. He runs a medicine shop and got fever. But he recovered in three days.
Family status: After my husband, next was my daughter and then son but they all recovered in two or three days. I have diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. When I got fever, it persisted for eight days.

My Covid battle: The doctor we consult wasn’t willing to check fever patients but he agreed to meet me over video call. He prescribed tests for malaria, dengue and the like but I asked him to add Covid to the list.

I wasn’t scared of getting Covid. What I was scared of is the treatment I may get at the hospital. We have a relative who was admitted at a top hospital in the early days of Covid’s spreading. He was on the ventilator and was footing bills of Rs 1 lakh a day but the nurses were throwing medicines at him for fear of contracted Covid themselves.

Once my report came out, I was moved to a nursing home as far off as Kidderpore as we had heard service was compassionate. And it was. I was put on oxygen immediately and it continued for the next nine days.

I have never felt so sick in my life and thought I would die. I am very religious and offered namaz even with my oxygen mask on but on some days I would be so out of breath I couldn’t even utter the prayer. I didn’t want to use a bed pan as I wanted to be clean for namaz and would insist that the nurses escort me to the toilet. On one such day, I fainted.  

Current condition: I was in quarantine for some days even after coming home. I would stay in a room and my food would be kept outside. Now I am better.

Amal Kumar Maiti

  • Age: 65 years
  • Resident of: AC Block              
  • Tested positive in: July

How I got it: I had gone to my brother’s house in New Town for some work where an associate had come. The next day that person got fever and the day after, I fell sick.

Family status: My wife and elder daughter, who has come from Bangalore for the lockdown, tested positive. My younger daughter, school-going son and domestic help were spared.

My Covid battle: Initially the three of us who tested positive were living separately from the others within our flat. While my wife and daughter recovered fairly easily, my fever persisted. Doctors advised tests but no pathology lab would agree to run tests for a Covid patient. My younger daughter Pallabi learnt from her doctor friends that AMRI Hospital has tied up with Monotel and that patients with mild symptoms staying at the Sector V hotel would have their tests done from the hospital.
My wife and I checked in for about a week. While hotels usually mean a relaxed holiday, this experience was a new one. An entire floor there was dedicated to Covid patients and a nurse, who had a room there and checked our parameters thrice a day. Doctors came for rounds too.

Current condition: Though weak, we have all recovered and I plan to join work soon. The doctor has asked us to exercise by walking on the terrace to maintain immunity.

Jaydeb Ray

  • Age: 64 years
  • Resident of: DA Block, New Town
  • Tested positive in: May

How I got it: I am a doctor at Calcutta National Medical College & Hospital. In fact, I’m an anaesthetist and my work involves touching the mouths and faces of patients. However, I was careful and none of my patients had tested positive.
The other possibility was a fish market near the “loha pool” bridge between New Town and Sector V that I would visit. But no one at the market got Covid either.

Family status: My daughters were looking after me but luckily, they tested negative.

My Covid battle: Being a doctor I thought I had an understanding of Covid-19 but the experience was worse than I could imagine. It began with fever that lasted eight days. I was weak and couldn’t sleep a wink at night. I even blacked out once and had a fall while returning from the washroom.

The hospital I work at is not handling Covid patients so I went to another private hospital to get tested and then shifted to the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Beleghata.

The environment in a Covid hospital is not for the weak-hearted. You’re shunned to a corner, no one comes to you, food is kept on a trolley at the door... I never even saw a nurse’s face and junior doctors would maintain a distance of about five feet from me. Only one senior doctor would come up close and we build a rapport.

My strength was down to zero and the only thing that kept me going was mental strength. No drug can work like will power and that is what one needs to recover from Covid.

Current condition: I lost 10kg in those 14 days. Now my trousers cannot be worn without belts and my colleagues at the hospital cannot recognise me! I joined work in end-June and am mostly on tele-medicine duty now.

Subhajit Sarkar

  • Age: 31 years
  • Resident of: Elita Garden Vista, New Town
  • Tested positive in: June

How I got it: The irony is that I was in China, working and meeting people, when Covid-19 was peaking there and had emerged unscathed. Months later, I got sick here in India where I was maintaining lockdown.
In the four months here, I left the house only seven times, that too with face shield and N95 mask. We didn’t socialise with anyone outside, would sanitise the house almost to a level of paranoia… I am in the merchant navy and had to undergo a medical test before joining duty. That was when I tested positive.

Family status: I live with my wife and baby, who sticks to me like a magnet all the time. It’s very lucky that she, or anyone else, didn’t get it.

My Covid battle: NKDA called me and gave me the option of institutional quarantine at the expense of the government but I chose to stay home, in a room with an attached bath. I have two paramedical licences — from Indian and the European Union and am also the medical officer on board my ship —so I knew I could handle it.

I had mild symptoms — only headache and a bad stomach, but then the latter may have been from over-eating! My wife Olga is Ukrainian but she makes delicious Indian food. She would serve me lots, thinking it would improve my immunity and I would try to down it all as all my leftovers would have to be dumped in the biohazard bin otherwise.

Olga has a medical condition due to which she can’t go out alone. Luckily two friends brought us groceries.

Isolation was no big deal for me as I’m used to it on the ship. I watched movies, worked out, looked out of the window…the toughest part was staying positive. Covid is now the most feared disease after cancer. People would call me up every day, asking if I had got fever. It was as if they were waiting for me to get sick. Such conversations end up scaring you more.

I wouldn’t pray much before this but when I got Covid, I prayed.

Current condition: I recovered in end-June and was immediately called to join the ship as there is a major supply chain crisis around the world now. I had to fly to Mumbai but since Calcutta-Mumbai flights are suspended, had to change flights in Varanasi.

I stayed in quarantine in Mumbai for a week, tested again and then flew to Paris (India and France have a diplomatic bubble allowing flights) and then Egypt, from where I joined my ship. We are now sailing around the dreaded pirate den of Somalia.

If we stop working, the world will come to a standstill. Simple things like medicines won’t be available. So after recovering from Covid, I have become a Covid warrior!

Debasish Banerjee

  • Age: 51 years
  • Resident of: AD Block
  • Tested positive in: July

How I got it: Tough to say. I was attending office and even went to Hasnabad for Amphan relief distribution. On June 30, I went to the court in Mayukh Bhavan. On July 3, I developed mild fever at night.
Family status: My wife had fever for just an hour the day before. My daughter had fever from the same day as me, going as high as 102°F.

My Covid battle: All three of us got tested on July 6 and received Covid-positive reports the day after. By then, my wife and daughter did not have any more symptoms. From July 9, my condition deteriorated, with oxygen saturation level falling to 91 per cent. I felt pressure in the chest and was vomiting. Though I could manage a bed at Peerless Hospital, we had trouble getting an ambulance. My friend from Paschimbanga Bigyan Mancha Basab Basak of FE Block offered to drive me but I declined. Finally, an ambulance came from the hospital.

Most people were supportive. Since my wife and daughter were confined at home, neighbours brought them supplies. Since the ATM was out of bounds, familiar rickshaw-pullers offered cash to tide us over. The ward assistant too offered help as did my office colleagues. Rajarshi Roy, our local doctor, refused to take fees.

I had heard doctors rarely visit Covid wards. But at Peerless, they regularly came and spoke to me. Facebook messages from neighbours also cheered me. I was there for 14 days, from July 11. For 11 days, I was on oxygen support. The last three days they took me off oxygen and kept me under observation. The bill was not exorbitant.

Current condition: I have still not joined office as I have a patch in my lungs and am on follow-up treatment. My daughter, 22, has decided to donate plasma at AMRI, Dhakuria.

Ramaprasad Paul

  • Age: 75 years
  • Resident of: Ujjwala, New Town
  • Tested positive in: July

How I got it: Tough to say. I say in jest: Chin theke holo.

Family status: My 72-year-old wife Ratna too tested positive.

My Covid battle: I felt feverish on June 29. The next day I had cough. We got blood tests done for typhoid and dengue. When my cough increased and there was no let up in fever we went for a Covid-19 test on July 9. The report came on July

Our apartment was sealed by NKDA the day after. My son stays in Mumbai and my daughter in the US. Yet within hours, they arranged for two oxygen cylinders, a thermal gun and a pulse oximeter delivered at our doorstep. My temperature was shooting up to 104°F and I had to take paracetamol every few hours. My son would consult with our doctor Joydip Pande even at 2am and procured the medicine FabiFlu within weeks of its launch in Mumbai. When our oxygen saturation level dropped, we would take oxygen for 15 minutes and check again after three hours. Since our blood pressure was fluctuating, we were asked to speak less for a few days. My temperature decreased after four days of the antibiotic course.

From July 13 to 28, we sanitised the common areas of the building daily at our own cost. Yet the security guards and our driver were stopped from coming to our floor. Neighbours stopped calling us, as if the virus would pass through the phone line! Mind you, I am the president of the residents’ association.

Current condition: I say I am back half way from Dhapa (crematorium)!

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