Pune business trip, Feb 2015.
As I was wheeled into the emergency room of the closest hospital from office (even though I insisted I could walk), I could see nurses and hospital attendants around me putting on masks as they cautiously approached me.
I was shivering from cold, along with fever and a persistent cough I was having for a couple of weeks.
All I could hear were people speaking in Marathi, except the occasional word “H1N1” that I managed to pick up. My hair stood up every time I heard that word, but guess I was shivering too much to be bothered with then. After all, in my head, I assumed I was only having a routine fever.
Then came the bombardment of questions. As they laid me down on the cold hospital bed covered in that dull and depressing white sheet, masked medics surrounded me and asked me a barrage of questions - “How long have you been coughing?”, “Do you have a running nose?”, “Do you have loose motion?”, “Are you experiencing any pain in your head or muscle joints?”, “Do you feel nauseous?”, “Why are you so handsome?”…
I answered all their questions to the best of my abilities, and before I knew it, there I was, hooked up to various IV drips wearing a mask in an isolation ward meant for H1N1 patients!!!!
By then, I was shot up with loads of antibiotics and other medications so I was too groggy to realise the gravity of the situation. My friends too were equally shocked by the outcome, but they stayed with me in the hospital throughout the night. More IVs replaced empty ones while there was the occasional blood sample taken from my other arm. I zonked out for the umpteenth time.
I regained consciousness a couple of hours later. Everybody around me had masks on, including my three friends :)
It is at times like this that you truly appreciate how lucky you are to have friends running errands and being there for you, especially when one is away from one’s hometown and family. Thank you so much for taking care of me Sumeet, Abhilash and Pratik!
Doctors doing their rounds too examined me and asked me another set of questions. By then, I was starting to feel quite fine, due to all those IV treatments. The fact that I was in an H1N1 isolation ward finally started to sink in. But rather than scaring me, I was actually quite confident it wouldn’t be H1N1.
Yes Maharashtra has one of the highest cases of H1N1 in India currently, but compare the number of those infected (approx 1000) with the total population of the state (114.2 million) and that is not even 0.001%. Not to mention the fact that I never take public transportation like bus or train. On top of that, I’ve just returned from a vacation in Mizoram, so I wasn’t even in the state for a long time. Yes there was still a chance of catching the virus, but see how miniscule that chance is. I have never won the lottery, what are the odds that I have caught this virus?
My friends too believed I wasn’t infected with H1N1 and continued making fun of me (or maybe they forced themselves to believe it wasn’t H1N1 because in case it was *touch wood* it would mean they too were infected). Yes, grim comedy indeed.
And then around midnight when I was in a much better condition, they shifted me to Sahyadri Hospital, a private hospital with much better facilities and amenities.
Even though I have read up a lot on H1N1 regarding its symptoms and precautionary measures, there were a couple of new things we discovered during my moment of H1N1 trial.
1 - Private hospitals are not allowed to do an H1N1 throat-swab test here in Pune. Only the OPD department of designated Government Hospitals are allowed to do the test.
2 - Even at such testing centers, only those people who are extremely ill, like those who have been bedridden for weeks or unresponsive to the initial medicines are allowed to take the throat swab test for H1N1. We learnt that the hard way. Once my fever and cough were gone, I was discharged and we made our way to Sassoon Hospital. Government hospitals, as we all know, are quite different from private ones. After finally managing to find the right counter to inquire where to take the test, we were told to go to Naidu Govt hospital. Argh. Apparently, in Pune, the only Govt hospital that can treat infectious diseases is Naidu Hospital.
When we finally reached Naidu hospital, the staff told us they could not do a throat swab test on me! It was then that they explained everything was Govt sanctioned (meaning "FREE") so only those with severe cases were allowed to take the test otherwise if every Tamish, Deep and Hareesh wanted to take a random H1N1 test, it would be extremely expensive and waste of resource for the Govt. We understood. Sensing our disappointment, the staff scheduled an appointment with the doctor at the hospital. The doc was a very sweet lady doc who listened to our case and then prescribed us medicines. And guess what? All that was FREE! We didn't have to pay for the consultancy or any of the medicines prescribed. All free at Naidu Hospital! Wow.
So, after resting for two more days and religiously taking the prescribed medicines, I was finally fit enough to go to work...
All in all, it was a very different experience for me. A part of me always knew it couldn't have been the Swine flu, but a part of me was relieved it really wasn't!
My cousin joked that I now have a new blog topic to write about :D But even though it was just a false alarm, I really appreciate all the messages of support and well wishes I got on Facebook and WhatsApp from my friends, family, school and college classmates, colleagues and peers while I was in the hospital. Thank you all so much for your concern. Big hugz!
Meanwhile, I do hope you're all taking precautions against H1N1. Remember to do the basics, like washing your hands regularly with soap, avoiding crowded places, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food, especially vitamin C. I may be lucky this time, but you and I can still fall victim to this disease the next time.
Here's to health and life. Cheers.