I don’t even remember when exactly I posted last. The dashboard shows some date at the end of April last year, but many of my posts were scheduled so probably early April?
April. The start of one of the most challenging months in my life. As the delta Covid19 strain started ravaging India, no one was left untouched. One by one, I got calls from family members in Delhi and elsewhere as one by one, they got infected, ill. Then the calls multiplied as panic overwhelmed the nation, a call for arranging an oxygen cylinder, another for arranging a ventilator, another for arranging a hospital bed…uncounted friends, acquaintances, “enemies” who hadn’t bothered whether I lived or died would call me out of the blue asking for these, or for some medicine which was suddenly out of stock since everyone thought it was the magic cure for what was an untreatable disease. Every day I saw the graph rise sharply: hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, there seemed to be no end in sight. Being a doctor, even if not practicing anymore, I was a natural port of hope for many who might not know anyone else in the medical profession. And for the extended family, there was no one else. I took weeks off from work so I could manage everyone remotely, handling symptoms and therapies, trying to arrange what I could from afar.
There were so many people who I couldn’t help even a bit, since there was nothing available. Not respirators, not oxygen cylinders, not ventilators, not beds, not tocilizumab, not Remdesivir, not even the ubiquitous steroids you could buy without a prescription at any pharmacy. People would answer a call by saying, “Please don’t ask for a bed or a ventilator.” instead of saying “hello”. There was complete fatigue of humanity, of compassion, of pity. My closest friends would tell me to ask for an oxygen cylinder when I needed it since that favor was not available in unlimited supply.
At the end of April, my parents living in complete isolation in Delhi got infected. With my other being a cancer survivor and a diabetic and my father hypertensive and asthmatic, I knew the risks. And I had told them of the same repeatedly. And they had taken all possible precautions, to an extent that even I thought excessive. Yet, there it was, pervading the very air in Delhi like winter smog. Using all the contacts and favors I had, I managed to get them started on the best therapy (at the time), and was able to manage everything they might need, including those rarest of commodities: oxygen cylinders and a concentrator, thanks to some of my dearest friends. With all that I hoped they would …
No idea how long this has stayed in my drafts. My father died of COVID in May 2021, despite the availability of the best medical care, which we were able to arrange; from Remdesivir to bi-PAP to ventilator. I started this post to narrate my experiences of that surreal time but I don’t think I have processed all that happened well enough to be able to talk about it at length. The desperation, the calls, the despair, the utter helplessness, the frustration, and the anger…I guess I need more time to internalize those; even a year is not enough.