An Oral History of the COVID-19 Crisis: 'Went to the hospital alone as no one was allowed to accompany me'
This account is part of Firstpost’s Oral History Project of the COVID-19 Crisis in India. The Oral History Project aims to be an ongoing compendium of individual experiences of the pandemic, with a focus on one significant day in our respondents’ lives during this time.
Jyotirmay Adhya, 72, is an architect and town planner based in Kolkata.
I was born and brought up in Kolkata, and I live alone in South Kolkata's Lake Gardens area ever since my father’s passing at the age of 98 last year.
My father was normally quite fit for someone his age. He hardly ever asked for any assistance, except for expecting his food to be served. It was normal until he had a severe fall at home in December 2019, which led to the fracturing of both the wrist bones on his left hand. The trauma made him extremely dependent on others, at least movement-wise.
My daughter Raahi, who is presently living in Kolkata with her mother Sonia, lives in the UK pursuing her PhD.
During this period of the raging pandemic, in November last year — that is 2020 — I started feeling extremely weak and tired. Also, I could feel the gradual loss of taste and smell, which made me really apprehensive. I discussed the matter with my daughter. By that time, she had already decided to return to Kolkata despite lockdown in the UK.
I had decided to test for COVID-19 , and for that, my daughter referred me to a couple of people, including Dr AK Ganguly who was associated with the local health centre for pandemic, run by the state government.
I contacted the test lab to book COVID-19 tests for both my father and myself, because I was naturally anxious about him, owing to his age and the coronavirus outbreak, especially when availability of normal medical assistance even in case of emergencies was uncertain.
Normally, I would check my father a couple of times when he slept at night, and on 24 November, I had even asked him whether he needed anything. He answered, although sleepily. Next morning, when I found him to be asleep for longer than usual, I tried to wake him up, but he was completely unresponsive. I first called my younger brother and then our house physician.
Eventually, we came to know that our father had died in his sleep, peacefully in the early hours of 25 November. However, it came as a complete shock to all of us, since he was otherwise normal and did not show any signs of suffering.
Besides informing our near and dear ones and arranging for his last rites, I postponed my COVID-19 test which was eventually performed on 27 November, and the test result, which was positive, arrived the next day.
However, Raahi, Sonia and one of my friends, Joydeb, were aware of the developments all along. Raahi not only kept in touch continuously from abroad, but also organised medical assistance, including an oxygen cylinder for our emergency use at home. In the meantime, I was put on COVID-19 medication as advised by Dr Ganguly of the local health centre, and the same was also endorsed by our family physician.
But my condition worsened. Sonia discussed the situation with our family physician who advised for my immediate hospitalisation. I was not in a position to comprehend anything in particular. Later, I came to know that Raahi had talked to her friend who was a doctor working at the MR Bangur Hospital, which had been designated as an exclusive COVID-19 treatment facility. Sonia took care of the necessary formalities.
On the morning of 30 November, I was told about my immediate hospitalisation. I had to go to the hospital alone in an ambulance as nobody was allowed to accompany me. Surprisingly, I didn’t face any problem with getting admitted as the hospital was already informed, probably because we are in the middle of a pandemic. I was taken to my ward after the initial examination and check-up. I was too tired and exhausted at that time. But later, I found the wards well maintained and doctors, nurses and other health workers very cooperative. However, no visitors were allowed inside the hospital.
I was discharged on 13 December, almost two weeks later, and only after testing negative for COVID-19 . Interestingly, my daughter also came back home to Kolkata from the UK on the very same day, only to be quarantined at her home for the next 14 days. My friend Joydeb came to receive me from the hospital and I felt a sense of freedom when I stepped out in the sun.
Sometimes, when I look back, I feel that the pandemic has probably taught us, once again, to look at our priorities in life.
— As told to Arshia Dhar
Write to us with your COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown experiences for inclusion in the Oral History Project at firstname.lastname@example.org
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