“Hey, can I call you back? I need to speak to the family of a positive COVID-19 patient urgently,” says Sumiti Singh, with a hint of apology in her voice.
The 34-year-old Ahmedabad resident has been flooded with phone calls ever since she fully recovered from COVID-19 after spending ten days in the hospital.
Sumiti, who runs a bakery named 7Violettes, was the second person in the city to have tested positive for COVID-19. At a time when there was so much misinformation around the disease and the people who had tested positive, she took to social media to share her experience to dispel the myths and offer some hope.
Most of us right now may feel apprehensive about the growing number of cases. This is why Sumiti’s story is something we all need to hear. Her road to recovery is inspiring, and there are some valuable lessons in resilience that we can all imbibe in our lives.
How it all began
Sumiti started 2020 with the thought of gifting herself a trip to Finland.
“I was excited but cautious. News about the Coronavirus affecting people in Wuhan and other parts of China had already started trickling from mid-January itself, and I was closely following it, even though there was no news about it in India. I checked with the hotels and the travel company, and they said there was nothing to worry about, so, I thought if I took all the necessary precautions, I would be safe. I bought an N-99 mask and was constantly sanitising everything to be safe,” she says.
Sumiti had planned a 10-day journey, from March 3-12, and that is when things started to get serious.
“When I returned from Finland on 12 March, my temperature was checked at the airport. I was fine—there were no symptoms, and neither was I running a high temperature. However, I continued to take safety precautions as before and decided to self-isolate upon reaching home,” she mentions.
However, Sumiti’s sister Suvriti, who is a chef at 7Violettes and had visited Finland about two years back, knew from personal experience that she could fall ill due to the change in weather.
“Two years ago, after returning from Finland, I had fallen sick due to the sudden change in temperature. So, I expected that something similar would happen with Sumiti. I had already warned her and my parents about it that we must be ready for that and not panic,” says sister Suvriti.
Self-isolation at home
Sumiti was fine for two days after her return, but on 14 March, she woke up with a fever.
“My folks got in touch with the general practitioner who gave me fever medicines and asked me to inform him if I experienced any coughing or respiratory distress, which I didn’t have at the time,” she states.
However, Sumiti had already started taking severe self-isolation measures. In hindsight, this was a wonderful decision, which ensured that none of her family members fell ill.
“The first thing I did was lock myself inside my bedroom. No one was even allowed to touch the door handle of my door. There was a table placed outside the bedroom door where they would keep my food. Once I was done eating my food, I would take my plates and wash them with hot water and soap. After that, they would go for a second wash,” she says.
She would wash her clothes, and then keep them in a bucket outside her room, for drying. She even sanitised the handles and the rim of the bucket.
“I was also cautious about not using the lift and would take the stairs. Later, on 16 March, I wasn’t feeling so well and decided to meet our general practitioner again. However, there was still no respiratory distress, so he again gave me some fever medicines and sent me home,” she says.
Two days later, when Sumiti did experience some difficulty breathing, she got in touch with Dr Meemansa who works at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, popularly known as SVP Hospital, in Ahmedabad.
“We knew her as she was a regular customer at 7Violettes. Once I spoke to her, she asked me to come down to the hospital, and I drove alone,” recalls Sumiti.
Diagnosis and the aftermath
Once she reached the hospital, she was told that she would have to stay the night.
“I wasn’t mentally prepared—had just the one pair of clothes that I was wearing, but I knew it was important for me to get admitted at that point.”
A swab test was conducted, where amples from the back of her throat and the nose were collected. She also had to get a blood test done along with an X-ray, and on 19 March, she was told that she had tested positive.
“My heart sank; I couldn’t believe it. Even though I had prepared myself mentally for this scenario, I didn’t expect it to happen to me. I was extremely stressed about my family, but I calmed down thinking about all the safety measures that I had taken. There was no slip-up or carelessness on my part, and I was sure that they would be okay,” shares Sumiti.
Her family was immediately put under government-mandated quarantine while the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) visited their house the very next day. A doctor arrived who checked their health status and their entire home was fumigated along with the apartment building.
Sumiti’s mother took a test, and thankfully, the results were negative. “Although we were feeling low, I think Sumiti was our greatest source of strength. Despite having to go through this by herself, she constantly kept in touch with us and kept our morale high,” says Suvriti.
In the hospital, Sumiti says that keeping connected with her friends and family kept her feeling motivated. “There wasn’t much for me to do. I was on heavy medication and did not have the mental capacity to watch or read anything. I was mostly resting and speaking to close ones over video calls,” she says.
However, due to misinformation and fear among people regarding the virus, there were rumours and a breach of privacy that left her feeling frazzled. “A few hours after my diagnosis, my details, misinformation regarding my business and my sister’s name, were being circulated as WhatsApp forwards,” says Sumiti.
This is the reason why she took to social media and shared her story. And the overwhelmingly positive response proved that she had made the right decision.
“The fear that people were experiencing turned to acceptance and even empathy. So many of them got in touch and sent their good wishes. It truly made a difference to my well-being,” she says.
Road to recovery and moving forward
About four days after being admitted, Sumiti experienced shallowness of breath and that for her was scary. However, in the presence of doctors, especially Dr Meemansha, she knew that she just needed to have faith and patience.
“She is incredible. I was fortunate to have her as my doctor,” says Sumiti.
With time, Sumiti’s vitals improved; and she always kept her body hydrated and rested well. Finally, after two negative tests, Sumiti was discharged on 29 March. Upon reaching her building complex, she was welcomed by her neighbours with a round of applause.
Now, she continues to self-isolate at home but is in constant touch, over the phone, with people who want to talk to her.
“Most of them call me if they feel like they are showing symptoms, and I always tell them to consult with a doctor. What I can do is share my experience, a few words of kindness and reassurance that things are going to be okay,” says Sumiti.
Due to the lockdown, her business has suffered a considerable blow. However, she is hopeful that once everything settles, it will resume as usual.
So, what are Sumiti’s parting words?
“I hope that things can soon go back to normal for everyone. Staying at home is the only way that everyone can stay safe at this moment. My only appeal would be that if you know someone who has tested positive, please show your support and be kind because, in these dire times, it truly matters,” she says, signing off.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)