I live with my husband, daughter, FIL (father-in-law), MIL and SIL in New Delhi, and had been pretty careful since 3rd March, 2020 — the day primary schools in Delhi were closed because COVID had just started to crop up in the Capital. We were extra careful because we live with my in-laws, and were most worried about how the virus would affect them. My SIL is a doctor, and even had to be on COVID duty for a while, but she isolated in her room completely during that time and…well…we kept living this new altered life with online school, WFH and zero part-time help.
We visited just 2 houses from March 2020 to January 2021 – my parents and my cousin’s. My MIL did not even visit her own mother & brother, who live in Gurgaon. We were being really, really careful!
Finally, with February 2021 came a sense of calm – we visited a few relatives, started going to the park and even went for a weekend getaway in March. But by April, things had started to look bad for the country again. We cooped up at home once again, praying the second wave also missed us.
However, on a mid-April Sunday morning, my husband told me to come to the bedroom. What could he want, I wondered, half-annoyed. He waited till we were alone in the room, then said, “Promise me you won’t panic, but I have a 101 fever.”
And So It Began
I had barely processed the information when my instincts kicked in – I masked up, and asked him to do the same. Since most of my daughter’s and my things are kept in our bedroom, I rapidly threw some essentials together (including getting her book rack & activity chest out) and closed the door. He was “safely” isolated in the room within a few minutes.
I went on to sanitise every door handle and other frequently touched surface in the house. Started to chuck in the AC & TV remotes, keys and all 7 cell phones, in our UV steriliser. Then, and only then, did I begin to process what was happening.
I realised the likelihood that I also had COVID (in case my husband tested positive) was quite high. I had no symptoms, but I proceeded to behave as if I already had coronavirus. I sanitised my hands thoroughly and washed my own dishes, staying largely away from everyone in the household.
At night, however, my 4-year-old needed me to put her to bed. We had decided we would sleep in my SIL’s bedroom, as we don’t have a spare room. So I put on an N95 mask and did her whole bedtime routine as we normally do. Once she was asleep, I slept off on the sofa in the living room (as I couldn’t sleep with the mask on).
My First Symptom & Difficulties In Booking RT-PCR Test!
The next morning, I woke up with an itchy throat. I blamed it on the All Out I had to keep on all night (thanks to the mosquitoes in the drawing room) as I usually have this exact allergic reaction to it. But, I knew it was just me hoping for the best
Within the next 48 hours, my husband lost his sense of taste and smell and continued to have 101-102 fever. We were finding it supremely hard to book an RT-PCR test for him! My father placed a special request with a lab to pick up a sample in the next few days. I went online and booked RT-PCR tests for 6-7 days later, on 1mg and Dr. Dang’s websites. Those were the only dates available!
My itchy throat continued, with an added dull bodyache (that I blamed on my intense strength training workout).
The whole house began to steam and gargle with Betadine 3 times a day.
My Daughter’s Worries
By Tuesday, my nanny was running a 101 fever. We sent her off to isolate in a room in her own house, as we had no space to safely isolate her! My daughter was worried who would play with her, and I assured her I would do all the things the nanny was doing.
She was also howling to have her father back. I explained that he likely had coronavirus, so he needed to isolate to protect us. And, I asked her, why she was so needy for her dad. After all, mommy was still with her! But she replied, “He is also my PARENT! I need him too!” To which, of course, I could only try and console her.
By evening, miraculously, a guy showed up to take a sample from my husband for an RT-PCR test. I chose not to get tested as the doctor had said it was too early for COVID to show up on a report for me.
At night, as I willed sleep to come to me, I checked my temperature – 98.7. Normal. I popped in a paracetamol to deal with the bodyache.
I spoke to my dad, saying that if I got fever I would go join my husband in our room. My dad totally freaked out and said that – I do get an itchy throat because of certain allergies, and it often leads to a fever. So what if I entered the room without having COVID? Then I would definitely get it!
Whatever little thread of clarity I had in my mind snapped. Somehow, I drifted off to sleep.
Wednesday morning. I woke up and felt sick. The thermometer read – 100.9.
*insert a couple of expletives I can’t type here*
I informed my in-laws, and decided to isolate in my SIL’s bedroom. Which meant my daughter and SIL would move to my FIL & MIL’s bedroom. And they would need to move OUT of the house – their safety was our biggest priority!
A family friend of mine is a doctor who I call our “COVID Specialist” due to the sheer number of patients she’s treated with the virus. She’s been the one we’ve consulted when some of our family members had COVID back in 2020. I called her up and informed her of the situation. I had questions –
Did I need to isolate away from my daughter?
Should I join hubby in his room? So my in-laws got to stay in the house?
And then, I broke down on the phone with her. I could not imagine leaving my 4-year-old! How would she manage?! If the nanny had been there, if my in-laws had stayed at home, I could’ve still thought maybe we can do this. But just her and my SIL, all alone. Could I just continue to stay outside with my mask on?
I won’t get into how we reached the conclusion, but we decided the following:
- I would isolate in a separate room till I was tested
- My parents-in-law would shift to another house
- My SIL would take care of our house & my daughter
Isolating Away From The Family
I moved things into my SIL’s bedroom, and said goodbye to my kid. She first cried but then quickly understood (as her father had done the same 3 days ago so she was now “experienced!”) I promised her it was just for 4-5 days. In that moment, to be honest, I thought I was making a promise I could keep. I really believed I would be out soon, taking care of her with my mask on.
After all, a friend had recently contracted coronavirus along with her husband, and since they didn’t have an option, they were roaming around the house with masks on and sanitizing aggressively, their 4-year-old with them. In her own words, “he gets really bored and gets a ton of screen time, but we’re doing whatever we can in our exhausted, sick state.”
Once I closed and locked the bedroom door, my mind began to truly work. I had things to take care of. What all did my family & I need?
I texted a list of things regarding my daughter’s care to my SIL. Found out what medicines I needed to have. Figured out which house my in-laws would move to. And started to prepare the room for my use.
Soon, I received news of my in-laws being en route to what would be their temporary home for the next few weeks. Reality sank in, and oh boy did it hit hard.
I felt… alone. Even though my whole extended family was rallying behind us. My mother had said she’d send all meals. My SIL was confident she’d handle everything at home. My husband’s mama was arranging things for the temporary home to be liveable for my in-laws.
We were so lucky in so many ways. Yet, I was terrified. And feeling incredibly alone in that room.
But mostly, just terrified.
I had no idea how the next few days and weeks would play out. Would we all survive?
I thought a lot of things those next 3 days, as I battled a fever of 101-102 and heard the pitter patter of my daughter’s footsteps outside the door.
I wondered, what if these were the last few days of my life? Had I done everything I wanted to? How would my family manage without me? Did my new found mission of helping working moms and dedication to figuring out the depression monster mean anything? I questioned everything. I had, after all, nothing but time on my hands. I could not bring myself to read a book or watch Netflix. I only focussed on my recovery, distracted myself from gloomy thoughts while basically questioning my entire existence.
Not A Normal Fever
One weird thing about my COVID fever was that it didn’t feel like a typical fever. Usually, at 101-102 fever, I can barely get out of bed and feel downright SICK. But, with the COVID fever, it didn’t feel like much. Just a general feeling of being unwell. But other than that, I was easily able to do all the things I needed to do for myself.
My fever was also coming down very, very slowly, even after having Paracetamol 650 mg. On 1 or 2 days, I ended up having a paracetamol every 4-6 hours, or something along those lines. Even then, my body temperature would not go back to completely normal. The lowest it touched was probably 99.5.
I was keeping a close eye on my SPO2 levels. Oh, and we had to buy an Oximeter at the absurd rate of Rs.3000! They usually cost Rs.700-800, I believe, but we had only bought ONE in advance which was with my husband.
The doctor had also asked me to keep an eye on my Respiratory Rate, BP and Pulse Rate. I made a temperature chart, along with these other vitals, in my bullet journal. And was sending Temperature, SPO2 and Pulse Rate in both family groups – so both sets of parents were abreast with my readings.
I had also developed a wet cough, and started having a cough syrup, along with an anti-allergy medication and an antibiotic targeted at clearing a potential secondary infection (for my cough).
Surviving COVID In The Worst Times India Had Seen
What does one do when they’re locked up in a room? Go online to feel connected. But you know what I got when I was on my phone?
News of how half the country had COVID. T’s friends under the age of 5 had fever. People in perfect health were dying in their 30s. There were not enough beds in hospitals. Oxygen shortage. Doctors didn’t have access to medications they needed to treat patients. I could NOT even process all this information. In fact, it terrified me so much I just wanted to be OFF social media, OFF Whatsapp. I did not want to know anything. Because a) I could not do anything about it while I was down with COVID, isolated in a room and b) it was too much for my brain. I needed to shut off. So I actually told my sister, cousins and friends to send me funny things – jokes, hilarious Reels. So I would laugh a bit.
I had been halfway through The Immunity Blueprint course by Mindvalley when I’d come down with COVID. And I remembered the one thing Eric Edmeades (course creator) had said – it was important for the mind to be free of stress, so that the body felt safe and would therefore focus on healing & recovery.
Which actually meant not watching “exciting” Netflix shows or reading Murder Mystery novels. Instead, I went back to FRIENDS and stand-up comedy shows. And did breathing exercises I’d learnt in the course, to flush the stress out of my system.
I also began lying on my stomach for a while (sort of proning), since my SPO2 was between 95-96. I did spot my oxygen levels fluctuate to a slightly lower level. But I also thought my oximeter was slightly glitchy so I can’t be sure.
A family friend shared this video he’d followed to keep oxygen levels up. I practised this the first few days.
And I slept A LOT.
After 2 days alone in the room, my husband joined me as I got my results back. Not surprisingly, I tested positive for coronavirus. I had gotten the Gene Expert test for COVID, which is a more expensive, quick and accurate test. I was desperate enough to spend 5k on it.
My friends termed it our “corona honeymoon” but honestly, all we did was sleep, eat, clean and lie on the bed, waiting for the hours and days to pass by. We just wanted to be back with our daughter.
Outside, she was finding it increasingly difficult to be without us too. I started to hear “Mumma open the door!!!” multiple times a day. It broke my heart to hear her cry outside the door. The worst, though, was when she began waking up in the middle of the night and screaming. We knew she wasn’t tolerating this well.
On one night, I was *this* close to just opening the door & hugging her. Resisting that feeling brought me to my knees. What kind of life were we living?!
However, we did do one thing that seemed to help. Bedtime was hardest on her. So, we began putting her to sleep via FaceTime. She’d keep the phone propped up in front of her, while my husband and I took turns telling her stories. She’d doze off with us right there with her.
Getting My Sister-in-Law Tested
Usually, when one tests positive, the whole house gets tested. That way, you can figure out who needs to isolate themselves. But with testing near impossible, we had forgone that option.
As we settled into our routine, my husband seemed to have largely recovered. So I wondered – what if he tests negative now? Can he be back with our child?
I also wanted to get my SIL tested. In case she tests positive, can WE be back with our daughter?
I just wanted a way, any way, for things to get better for T. She needed atleast one of her parents!
So we made arrangements for both of them to have their Gene Expert for COVID test done (I think it’s the same as the CBNAAT test).
Lo & behold, my husband was still positive on Day 12 of his illness. But so was my SIL! She had no symptoms at that time – and it was likely that having had both her vaccination shots had helped.
11 days after I had started to self-isolate, I met my daughter. The hug was unreal. Our level of joy could’ve touched the skies!
It was likely my daughter was also an asymptomatic carrier, but I still had COVID. So I continued all precautions, such as sanitizing everything, keeping my mask on, etc. till Day 14 but OMG! We were all back together!!! It was the happiest I had been!
It’s been a little over a month since my first symptom. I got a negative COVID test earlier this week. My cough is gone, sense of smell & taste are completely back and we’re not on any COVID-specific medication any more.
I felt quite weak for about 10 days post-isolation. Return to normal strength has been slow, but’s it been there. I’ve progressed to doing house work, child care and office work. It still leaves me physically exhausted by the end of the day, but I think that’s less to do with COVID now and more to do with general fitness levels.
I’ve slowly been getting back to light yoga. Tomorrow, I begin a week-long yoga trial session. I don’t feel confident to return to my strength training + HIIT + cardio workouts yet.
The family is also all ok now. My in-laws have returned. Life is slowly returning to the “new normal”.
I’m aware there are still so many out there who have COVID, and so I’m going to share some helpful resources/tips in the next post.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay masked. Get yourselves vaccinated as soon as you can – it truly helps!