"People are scared and frustrated and that sometimes comes out in the wrong way. I used to get hundreds of calls and texts a day from people abusing me"
Adversities work in mysterious ways. They can either bring out the best or the worst in you. And, the story of Rohit Dutta is a living proof of that. The first survivor of COVID-19 in Delhi, Rohit has been at the receiving end of good wishes and at times, accusatory stares (mostly fueled by misinformation) for the past 14 days.
Talking to The Better India (TBI), he shares his journey to recovery and the struggles en-route, but most importantly, he, who has been on the other side of danger, has a crucial message to share – “Fear not, isolation ward is not a jail. It’s for your own good!”
From a Business Trip to Isolation Ward
Rohit is an entrepreneur who runs a company which manufactures technical textile used on the tip of shoes. And, it was for this business that he travelled to Italy mid-February to attend a leather exhibition.
“I went to Milan, Italy on 16 February, and was there for work. I had no idea about such an outbreak. There were no news reports of Corona in Italy at the time. How could I even imagine contracting it!?” says the 45-year-old.
He left for Budapest, Hungary, from Milan on 21 February and on 24 February took a flight from Vienna, Austria to Delhi.
When Rohit reached Delhi airport on 25 February, he was feeling fine with no symptoms. But, after coming back home, he ran a fever late at night.
“Back in Europe, I was perfectly fine and healthy. But, after coming back I began to feel feverish at night and so took a paracetamol and went to sleep. The next morning I visited a local physician who prescribed me medicines for three days,” he shares.
His health then improved and the symptoms receded and by 28 February he was feeling better. The same day he organised a small get-together at Hyatt Delhi to celebrate his son’s birthday. A total of 11 people which included family and friends, were present at the celebration. All went well.
However, that night Rohit’s fever returned.
“By that time, talks about the outbreak in Italy were making headlines and I got scared. So the next day, we went to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to get tested. Near the emergency ward, there was a separate counter for coronavirus tests and I had to fill a form there. There was a lot of rush as many students also came in for tests and left. But, I was asked to get admitted because of the fever and I am glad I did. Next day, on 1 March, I was tested positive and by late evening around 8.30-9 pm, I was shifted to Safdarjung Hospital,” he shares.
Rohit was travelling with two of his brothers-in-law who were also exposed to the virus and had contracted the infection. After reaching Delhi airport they travelled back to their homes in Agra and unfortunately, transmitted it to four other members of their family there. Hence, all the seven members were admitted to Safdarjung hospital, in addition to Rohit’s family who were quarantined there.
“Fear is an emotion that comes naturally to people during times like these. But, we shouldn’t let it get the better of us. When I got to know about my condition I was extremely scared. This being a new disease I was scared I would die. Sitting in that room in isolation, waiting for my reports and being away from my family who were in another room, quarantined was the most difficult time and I was in constant fear and stress. But, I had to fight it, for myself and for the welfare of my loved ones,” shares Rohit.
14-days of Isolation
After being tested positive, Rohit’s fear was paramount for his family, but it was the doctors who motivated him to stay positive. They allayed his fears by talking to him about the procedure and answered all questions. They assured him that in his situation he was likely to recover. The experience at the isolation ward, Rohit shares, was quite different from his imagination.
“Contrary to common belief, the isolation ward was nothing short of a comfortable hotel stay with all the basic facilities. I was surprised to see and couldn’t believe that a government hospital’s isolation ward was so well maintained. They would clean all the surfaces and change linens twice a day. You don’t need AC or Television in such situations. All you need is constant care, a dedicated medical staff and great doctors and I am grateful to have got all of that,” says the COVID-19 survivor who spent 14 days in the ward, recovering from a disease that has already claimed over 20,000 lives, out of more than 4 lakh cases across 200 countries.
However, he is also one of the 1.2 lakh cases of recovery.
While being in isolation for two long weeks could be testing for a person, Rohit shares that meditation and yoga helped him cope better. The support and love of friends and family helped further.
“Imagine, my family was in the same building but I couldn’t see or touch them. Every day, I would talk to them through video-chat and my 8-year-old daughter would send me kisses. It was difficult but their love gave me the strength to do the right thing,” he adds.
However, being away from his family and worrying about their health was not the only thing his mind suffered. He shares that someone had leaked his phone number and photograph on social media, which attracted a deluge of calls, text messages and threats every single day.
“There is a lot of misinformation floating around and in such stressful times, it can be dangerous. People are scared and frustrated and that sometimes comes out in the wrong way. I have been subjected to that. I used to get hundreds of calls and texts a day from people cursing and abusing me, even when in hospital. It was as if I had inflicted the virus on myself. People forget that I did not welcome or even know about the virus when I travelled to Italy. I was suffering from it and fighting very hard to get better,” shares Rohit.
In addition to his family, the doctors and the staff also had his back, constantly. Even though hidden behind hazmat suits, the warmth of their presence and encouraging words everyday motivated him to fight the disease.
“From the doctors to all the staff, everyone was extremely helpful and supportive. Sometimes, I would feel so guilty to see them putting their lives at risk to take care of me and whenever I expressed it, they would assure and motivate me. I remember one of the nurses telling me that they chose this job and that it was their duty so I need not feel guilty or thank them. But, I will forever be grateful to them!” he says.
After recovering, Rohit was finally discharged from the hospital on 14 March and has been back at his Mayur Vihar house under home-quarantine, along with his family. Looking back at his journey so far, he adds that he has learnt a lot.
“Being away from people in isolation teaches you the importance of people and helps you appreciate them more. My family is back at home with me but I have to maintain a 3-meter distance from them. It’s difficult but is for their own good. But, I can’t wait for the next few days to be over soon, so that I can finally hug and kiss my kids!” adds the father of two.
Now fully recovered and healthy, Rohit hopes that his story will help others get the strength to keep calm in these testing times and feel more responsible for not just their lives but also of those around them.
“This is a battle we all need to fight but by being responsible and safe. The government guidelines in place are for our good and of our families and taking them lightly can cause harm to many. This is the time, when we all need to dispel hate or panic and help each other in spirit. That is the only way we can be victorious,” he concludes.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)