Mumbai: One year on, Mumbaikars’ indomitable spirit outshines coronavirus

The first positive case of Coronavirus in Maharashtra was detected in Pune on March 9, 2020, when a couple with travel history to Dubai tested positive. Today, it’s exactly a year, since the Covid-19 pandemic first hit the state. Maharashtra today has recorded 22,28,471 cases, the highest for any state in India.

While there is a surge in positive cases once again across the state, three Mumbaikars, who have fully recovered from the deadly infection after being critical share their stories of fear, survival and hope. They have had an exhausting year, with post covid complications and even mental and emotional trauma. They look back at 2020 and go on with their daily lives in the New Normal in 2021….

A V Parab (51), Divisional Fire Officer, Mumbai Fire Brigade: Parab was down with Covid-19 and on ventilator for 15 days in May 2020. He was discharged from the Global Hospital, Parel on June 20 after he recovered completely. Sharing his experience, Parab says, “I was on duty in Dadar. I am not sure where I contracted the virus. We had been doing regular work on sanitisation and firefighting. We had been regularly visiting the BMC head office.”

Parab got himself tested after he had cold, fever and had difficulty breathing. He was diagnosed with Covid-19 on May 16 and was admitted at Global Hospital, Parel, but his condition deteriorated. He was in the ICU as he had difficulty breathing. “I had hiccups continuously for two days. I also had a fever. I was given medicines but the hiccups didn’t stop. Then I was asked to get a CT scan, after which I tested positive for Covid-19,” he recollects. “I didn't have comorbidities, but my condition was not getting any better.”

Parab spent over a month in the hospital. He was discharged on June 20. He was on a ventilator for 15 days and in the ICU for two weeks.

Parab stressed that he was able to face this challenge due to the support of his boss, Prabhat Rahangdale, former chief fire officer of Mumbai Fire Brigade. Rahangdale had made hospital arrangements for Parab. “He regularly called my family and gave us moral support,” he says.

According to Parab, the biggest battle was when he was put on the ventilator as he couldn’t breathe due to low oxygen saturation level. It was also a critical time for his family -- wife and two sons.

However. Parab got a hero’s welcome on June 20. He has resumed work. Officials showered him with flowers and greeted him with a big round of applause. “I cannot delete that one month from my life. But now when I think about it I feel as if nothing happened,” he adds.

Sachin Wadegaokar (45), security and bodyguard of Assistant Municipal Commissioner of BMC G (north) ward: Wadegaokar recollects the unpredictable nature of the virus and his mental battle to stay positive during the isolation period as he was kept away from his family. He has recovered and resumed work. Wadegaokar has no choice but to venture into areas worst hit by the virus along with his boss Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner of BMC G (north) ward.

"After cases started spreading rapidly in Dharavi, Dadar and Mahim, I used to accompany Dighavkar saheb during his rounds. I do not know when and where I contracted the virus. I felt miserable with fever and body ache since I was always on the field. On August 4, I tested Covid positive and was sent to Prabhat Hospital, Mahim by my boss. My health started deteriorating and oxygen saturation level started dropping,” he says. Wadegaokar was rushed to BYL Nair hospital and shifted to ICU. “Breathing was tough. I couldn't eat. I would become restless when the oxygen mask was removed," he recalls.

Wadegaokar was also longing to see his wife and two children. " I did not lose hope and continued fighting. After a few days, the person on the bed next to mine in the hospital died of Covid. I could not sleep and eat for many days. Gradually things started improving for me. I was in the hospital for 28 days.” He tested positive twice and was discharged only after he tested negative the third time. However, the troubles of Wadegaokar, an avid bodybuilder, did not end there. He was supposed to be in home isolation for 14 days. Although he was always particular about his diet and exercise regime, Wadegaokar could not believe how weak he had become. He had lost his appetite and weight due to the frequent blood tests, injections and medicines. “The recovery has given me hope and strength, but l still fear when I think about those 28 days."

He has a piece of advice for those who think they are very healthy, and coronavirus cannot harm them. “I would say they need to rethink. I have suffered and recovered, not everyone is lucky," he adds.

Vallabhbhai Tank (75), Malad resident: Tank had lost hope when he was admitted in the ICU. His was a classic case of comorbidity, Covid-19 infection, post covid complications, secondary infection and trauma. Tank suffered a lot but managed to endure and bounce back. He was admitted to the ICU of Shatabdi hospital, Kandivali with low oxygen saturation levels.

"I had a little cold and a cough. Gradually, it started worsening. I had problems breathing,” he says. One day, Tank collapsed. His wife tried to lift him but she couldn't. She called their son for help. They rushed him to a doctor who advised them to go to the hospital. He tested positive for Covid-19. The next day, his son and my wife too tested positive. While he was critical, they had mild symptoms. “I felt suffocated and could not breath,” he says. He was admitted to Shatabdi hospital on September 25.

His condition worsened when he did not see his wife and sons around.

After being discharged, Tank suffered secondary infection in his lungs and post covid complications. “I have comorbidities and after 22 days in the hospital, then I had these complications. I was really very stressed. I decided to go for regular walks after the quarantine period got over. I started yoga and exercise twice daily and improved my diet. I am on my own now and recovered totally from this infection. I feel better now,” he says.

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