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Between Life and Death: Sheer Luck Brings Many Back from Jaws of COVID-19

© AP Photo / Rajanish KakadeA civic worker sprays disinfectant on beds at a special temporary hospital facility for COVID-19 patients in Mumbai, India, Friday, April 10, 2020
A civic worker sprays disinfectant on beds at a special temporary hospital facility for COVID-19 patients in Mumbai, India, Friday, April 10, 2020 - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): India is undergoing the longest and harshest lockdown anywhere in the world as a containment measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But still there is no sign of abatement of the pandemic, with data scientists predicting a long haul ahead for India, and the country might see 287,000 cases per day by early 2021.

Ever since the first case of COVID-19 infection was detected in India on 30 January, 2020, there has been a surge in the caseload, with the cumulative figure crossing 700,000 as of Wednesday, according to the federal Health Ministry. The only silver lining in the otherwise gloomy situation is that the recovery rate has also been improving steadily. At present, it is 61.5 percent of the overall 742,417 cases. 20,642 people have lost the battle to the viral infection and according to the federal Health Ministry, more than 70 percent were due to co-morbidities.

A large number of people, despite co-morbidities, fought the infection and came out victorious, whereas for many others the very thought of the consequences of COVID-19 was traumatic.

Seventy-six-year-old Harish Chandra Sehgon, a retired government official, and his wife contracted the infection, despite taking all precautions as medical professionals suggested. Sehgon was a CVD patient and had undergone open-heart surgery some two decades ago. While his wife recovered, Sehgon slipped into a critical stage requiring oxygen support. The doctors immediately advised Convalescent Plasma Therapy as a last-ditch attempt to save him.

“It was a difficult task to get a plasma donor. We made appeals to a large section of our contacts, friends to find a donor, who is a cured COVID-19 patient, in the age-group of 18-60 years, without any diseases. It was sheer luck, as two such persons volunteered, before time was running out for me. While one person was ruled out, as his blood group did not match with mine, the second persons turned out to be angel to me,” Sehgon heaved a sigh of relief.

Sehgon said that the criticality of the infection, difficulty in finding a plasma donor, and the thought that most of the mortalities were for those with co-morbidities – all these were enough to put him off. But the moral support from family and friends helped him to fight it out. Another factor that helped him was breathing exercises and singing, which helped to open up his esophagus.

“My son is a doctor at Wisconsin Medical College and Hospital in the USA, and also a specialist in Covid-19 treatment. He could convince the doctors attending to me to allow me exercises for my lungs through yoga and singing, as his experience with American patients on this supplementary therapy had been somewhat encouraging,” Sehgon said, going on to explain how breathing exercises and singing helped him beat depression.

"It is not only a pleasant feeling, it is also a logical feeling. Corona, after all, is a lung disease. Yoga and singing are lung exercises and therefore quite beneficial especially in cases like mine with pre-existing ailments like bypass surgery for heart,” said Sehgon as he gathered his negative test report.

For Chennai-based journalist Sanjay Ghosh, working in the federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, it was a second birth.

“In the first few days, I never knew I was in a critical stage. After testing positive, I was wheeled into a CT Scan Unit of a government facility for a scan and taken to an ICU. There were seven other patients in the isolation ICU.  The second day, doctors messaged my brother that I was in a very critical condition and informed my relatives that anything could happen to me. I didn’t know that. My lungs had taken a hit of around 70 percent. I was on oxygen support, not on a ventilator,” Ghosh said as he explained the critical stage he had gone through.

“There was a spate of deaths. The person on my adjacent bed and me saw around 15 deaths right one after the other.  They would come as normal patients and die in half a day. This actually caused a lot of mental fatigue,” Ghosh said, describing how depressing it was to be in the hospital bed.

Ghosh was later shifted to another multi-specialty government hospital, with advanced facilities, after his friends in the media exerted pressure on the health authorities. Since he had co-morbidities like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, the doctors’ first challenge was to bring those conditions to normal.

Since his condition continued to be critical, the doctors took an authorization to start a new treatment protocol using Remdesivir – a trial drug approved by the apex biomedical research body – Indian Council of Medical Research. For the next four days, he was on insulin and anti-depressants. Once his sugar level was within the limits, doctors started giving him Remdesivir. “It worked magic on me,” recalled Ghosh. “Remdesivir, steroids and the doctors saved me from a fatal COVID-19.”

The whole experience was traumatic, explained Ghosh, who as a journalist covered deaths and destruction in the state of Tamil Nadu during the 2004 Tsunami and the worst floods in Chennai city in 2015.

“I have seen deaths not as close as this. Patients coming and lying down next to you in hospital, in no time they are gone. Those were poetic deaths, no struggle. There was nobody even to grieve their deaths. In a few minutes, health workers in white PPEs (Personal Protection Equipments) would come and take the body in blue plastic body bags,” he said, recalling his traumatic experience.

After coming out of the hospital, Ghosh said, he experienced many sleepless nights. “Because of breathing difficulty due to lung damage, I did not sleep for a couple of days thinking that if I sleep I would not be getting up in the morning alive.”

Ghosh said the dramatic escape from the jaws of COVID-19 has completely changed his lifestyle in terms of healthcare protection, food habits, etc.  

India’s burden of COVID-19 has been spiralling and according to an estimation by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it might surge to 287,000 by early 2021 if a vaccine or treatment is not developed soon.  

Another group of Indian data scientists has predicted, in the short-term, the caseload in the country would cross one million by 18 July.

“Our estimation is based on multiple factors – total tests done per million per day, data released by government agencies. It is based on three algorithms (i) conventional scientific prediction algorithms adopted by the WHO, (ii) algorithm developed by Johns Hopkins University and our own algorithm, considering Indian cultural and infrastructural scenarios,” said Vineet Bakshi, one of the data scientists.

As of Wednesday, India has a caseload of 742,417, out of which 456,831 patients have recovered while 20,642 succumbed to the viral infection, according to the federal Health Ministry.


The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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