On the face of it, we are busy baking and cooking, working from home even as we homeschool, and generally holding it all together through the lockdown. But scratch the surface, and there is one deep fear that binds all us mothers together – the dreaded Coronavirus entering our homes. What if, despite our best efforts, one of our children falls ill? Afshan Anjum shares her story
Every time my son falls ill, I suffer from a strange stomach ache. It’s probably stress or anxiety, but sometimes I feel it’s my womb that hurts, because that’s where he lived for nine months and the bond between us is forever. Like any parent, I hate to see my child sick. And I believe we need to be healthy and happy as parents and children, both in mind and body.
So like all mothers in the world, dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic wasn’t easy for me. In fact it made me a little paranoid. Even before the lockdown was officially announced, we as a family had confined ourselves to our home. With social media and news a tap away on our phones, we knew how all other affected people were dealing with it. It wasn’t tough to follow the norms, but it was challenging to keep our sanity. I made my son wash his hands at least six times in the day, even as I secretly chased our live-in help to check that she had washed her hands every time she entered the kitchen. I cleaned almost everything possible with antiseptic liquids that resulted in our entire home smelling of disinfectant. The knobs of all the doors and windows were regularly wiped with alcohol based liquid and the sheets were changed more frequently than usual.
Meanwhile the number of Coronavirus cases kept going up in the country. The area we lived in was also marked as a Red Zone with a couple of positive cases being detected nearby.
Meanwhile, I was occupied with trying to keep the little one busy, engaged and also entertained. A lot of effort goes into managing a routine for a four-year-old, especially when one can’t take him outdoors. Just when I thought that keeping a child away from TV and gadgets would be my biggest challenge, I faced my real test. My son and I, the only two members of the family who hadn’t stepped out of the house in an entire month fell ill.
It started with my four year old getting a cough, fever and chest congestion – all symptoms that were uncannily similar to COVID-19. Everything I’d read about children having better immunity to fight with the virus seemed pointless now. I could imagine a big corona-like ball coming to hit me, as I kept wondering just where I may have gone lax. Had someone with dirty hands entered our house, or had we left a fruit unwashed?
We considered seeing a doctor, but going to the hospital in these times seemed much scarier. Most private doctors too were initially only consulting on the phone. As for testing, at that point , as per protocol, you could only test when you had confirmed signs of Covid-19.
Even so, it is not a simple procedure, and with the rise in confirmed cases, testing kits were in short supply and test results were hugely delayed. By the time our turn could come, the fever and infection had started subsiding.
We spoke to a pediatrician on the phone, who managed to soothe our fears and prescribed some medicines. We already knew that Covid-19 had no set treatment or medication yet so our best route was to keep the fever under control. That, along with a lot of vitamin-C to strengthen his general immunity. The doctor said the picture would be clear in five days as Covid-positive cases take around fifteen days for basic recovery. The total recovery time is usually six weeks. In those five days we tried everything to make sure my baby bounced back to normalcy. For the first three days he had high fever with breathlessness. We used antibiotics, vitamins and a zero stat pump to open up his lungs and reduce inflammation in the body. The room was kept moist with a steamer and his body was given complete rest for recovery.
Thankfully his condition improved and stabilized within a week. By then we’d equipped ourselves mentally and emotionally to deal with whatever was to come. Following our son’s illness two more members of the house including me, fell ill. We all had different symptoms but it was definitely a kind of flu. We all recovered as per the strength of our bodies and learned a few things we should remember in such times.
Information is key:
We discussed our child’s case with two pediatricians while he was ill and cross-verified the advice and possibility of more treatment. This included detailed video calls and regular feedback on his recovery.
A very close friend of ours had travelled from London to Singapore and tested positive on arrival. We only got to know of it much later, but his blog on his road to recovery reassured us greatly. We constantly chatted with him and it was apparent that proper care and isolation were the only available resort.
It is important to understand that every flu or common cold you get today is not Novel Coronavirus. But the virus in your body could be from the Corona family. It could be a milder version of it may be and many symptoms could be overlapping. The key is to not panic but stay informed.
Our body is our machine:
Recovery from illness is hard work for both, your mind and body. A blocked nasal chamber and an excruciating throat ache depressed me so much that I used to break out into tears. I can only imagine how tough a six week flu recovery for people must be. How tough it would be to deal with all by yourself. The good part is that our body is naturally designed to fight these viruses. All we need is good immunity, which can be developed with healthy nutrition and basic medicine. So despite suffering from a corona scare I decided to give it my best shot. I drank lots of warm water with drops of lime and honey. I kept gargling and controlled the inflammation with medicines.
The entire ordeal lasted a good two weeks- the time it takes for the recommended quarantine period to last. And these two weeks were grueling for us, mentally and physically. Being sick myself and having to tend to a four-year-old at the same time, with my husband worried sick about us and running to medical stores day and night just to keep us comfortable, was not easy. Had getting tested been easier, we would have been put out of our misery sooner. I am glad that we came out of the scare unscathed, but it really put me in the shoes of the people that are affected. All I can say is that we need to take this very seriously, the social distancing, the infection prevention and control, and staying alive.
Afshan Anjum is a television journalist, writer, traveller and experimental cook. She lives in Srinagar, Kashmir with her husband and four year old son.