My First Hand Horrifying Encounter With Coronavirus In India

I’m Trishna Goswami, a resident of Borivali, Mumbai and this is my story of a close encounter with COVID-19. My intent is not to criticize the government or its employees, but only to inform you all and have you mentally prepared, in case you or your loved ones might encounter a situation of COVID-19 in India. 

My Cousin Suffered An Attack Of Breathlessness

On 26th March 2020 around midnight, my cousin sister started to feel breathless owing to hypertension issues. When this happened, she was in her room and we were in the living room. She came running to the living room with no control on her breathing, I being the only person who could do something make the situation better at that point, called my brother who was chilling with his friends in the locality. We collected all her medical files, gave a quick call to my uncle and aunt (parents of my cousin) to understand the case and rushed to the nearest hospital. As soon as we entered the hospital, everyone was panicking to even come close to her, as breathlessness is one of the symptoms for coronavirus. This made everything difficult. Also, point to be noted: due to COVID-19, hospitals are allowed to change the rates as per their wish, there is a note stuck at the entrance of every hospital.

Picture Credits: religarehealthinsurance.com

Coming to the treatment, we got some basic testing done such as ECG. The doctor enquired about all the symptoms that may prevail due to coronavirus. After checking, it was understood that it is purely because of hypertension issues. The doctor put her on a machine that supplies oxygen to regularise her breathing problem. Now we cleared the bills, which was ₹3000 on Day 1. We took the medicines and returned home around 3 am. 

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My brother and I took utmost care after returning home, we didn’t let her get up. Next day i.e. 27th March 2020, we were extra careful. We refrained her from using her phone, as she suffered from an attack because she was fighting with someone on the phone.  We tried interacting with her and did everything to make her happy or keep her mind happy because we had no clue what was happening to her, as she was completely fine.

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The Challenges Continue

The previous night was very challenging for all of us, but little did we know that the challenges would continue. Everything was alright until 10.00 pm in the night. My sister hinted that she might be having an attack again and apologized in advance for the possibility of making us go through the disaster, we were all kidding when she said that. Although I wanted to take her to the hospital at that moment itself, she was not so keen on going to the hospital. We decided to wait for some time, I gave her deadline of 10:45 pm and told her that if this doesn’t stop, then we must go to the hospital, without any further argument. All of sudden, she was in a panic mode again and she shouted my name and demanded that we go to the hospital immediately.

Now we were all petrified because when it happened on Day 1, we were okay because we knew that this has happened in the past but when it proceeded to Day 2, even though we didn’t mention it out loud, I am sure we all including her had one thought, what if? We ran to the same hospital and reached at 11 pm.  As soon as we reached, my sister was asked to wait outside in that situation, which was getting worse with every passing second. The staff informed us that the doctor was occupied with an emergency case. Now is when the real struggle or drama started, the staff could see that my sister was almost on the verge of falling on the floor and could not breathe at all,  yet they had the audacity to come and ask us to wait for 10-15 minutes.

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I and my brother along with my other family members were continuously pacifying her and trying to do as much as we could while we waited for the doctor to arrive. After 10-15 minutes, one of the hospital staff members was casually standing in the same area and was talking to one of his colleagues. We enquired again and he told us to continue waiting and even nudged us to try another hospital. The situation kept getting worst for my sister, meanwhile, we were doing everything to find the solution for that problem. 

Medical Staff Weren’t Accommodative

With no public and personal transport available, my brother went walking to the other clinic which was the closest. But the doctor there refused to open the clinic or even check the patient. We explained to the doctor that there are no symptoms and the doctor who checked her yesterday had confirmed it. But in spite of explaining this, the medical professional refused to examine my cousin. 

I called the nearest and one of the biggest hospitals in the locality, they asked me what the issues were, the call was forwarded to 3 different lines and each one of them asked me the same question. I had to explain to each one of them After listening to my story, the third person on the line said, we can’t take her. I questioned them if they were allowed to refuse, he said of course. He stated they could send their ambulance, which would take my sister to any hospital possible.  Now I could not spend my time arguing there, as for my sister, the situation was getting worse. 

So while I was figuring out other options, the nurse who treated my sister yesterday walked in and mentioned that the bill was pending, I was shocked and couldn’t believe my ears. I told her that I had already cleared the bill the previous day. But the nurse replied that they hadn’t informed that some amount was still due, but they didn’t ask for it then since they were understanding. 

Picture used for reference ( Picture Credits: bombayhospitalindore.com)

I showed her my online transaction record to clarify the payment was made. When all this was happening,  my sister’s condition got out of hand. It worsened when she witnessed the disgraceful manner in which the staff were demanding money. On witnessing my sister’s ill health, the staff decided to take her in and start the treatment. They sensed that their behaviour could lead them to bigger trouble. They took my sister in and asked us all to wait outside.

After some time, the nurse approached me and asked me to clear the bills. I asked her to call the doctor and the other nurse who collected the payment. The doctor couldn’t face us and said that the main concern was to look at the patient. Yet the nurse kept harassing us for paying the bill. I was infuriated and immediately dialled 100 and called the local police station. But the number kept redirecting us to other numbers until finally my brother had 6 different contact numbers on his call history and we were still not talking to the concerned person.

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From One Hospital To Another

I am sure if we would have tried more, we would have gotten through this but we had to be with my sister and also be at the reception to make the payments. Later I explained to the nurse that even though it might appear that we were running away from the hospital without paying the bills, this was never our intention. But it is wrong of them to harass us constantly to pay the amount immediately when our loved one is extremely ill. Meanwhile, my sister lost her consciousness and fainted and we were being asked to move out.

We were shattered to see her in that condition and it was that very point in time when I and my brother broke down in tears. The medical staff stopped following up when they saw us crying. The doctors started operating. They put her under some machine which helped her breathing. She was fine after 30-45 mins. The doctor told us that she was suffering mainly due to some kind of tension. But he told us that since the hospital wasn’t equipped to deal with her situation, we needed to take her to some other place, and get her admitted in the ICU immediately.

Since it was 2 am, we asked the doctor where we could take her. The doctor suggested a hospital and mentioned that they were equipped to conduct tests and give us clarity on her situation. We cleared the bills for Day 2 that amounted to ₹5000 for consultation and some extra amount for medicines.The ambulance arrived around 2:30 am, we left the premises. Now the hospital that we were supposed to go to was hardly 10-15 mins away. We sat in the ambulance, in spite of the doctor’s suggestion to use the bi-cap machine for her oxygen supply, the ambulance personnel didn’t seem to do that. He kept assuring us that she was fine. She was breathing abnormally, yet nothing was done. 

Picture used for reference ( Picture Credits: quora.com)

We reached this other hospital around 2:45 am, only to find a lady medical staff screaming at the ambulance driver for bringing a patient who didn’t have symptoms of coronavirus. We were made to wait for another 20 minutes, and only after we threatened to call the police, they decided to help my sister. We were all waiting outside the ICU thinking that they are doing the necessary treatments, only to realise that doctor will come the next day and the hospital was not well equipped to do the necessary tests at a given point.

So my sister was given the same treatment which she was been given earlier for the night in the previous hospital. Yet, we paid ₹2500 for an ambulance for a distance of 10 mins. The ambulance rates had been revised and we were victims to the new revised exorbitant rate. We slept at the hospital the entire night and woke up ay 8 am. The tests weren’t done, the doctor hadn’t come and we were just informed to visit the hospital at night. We were been asked to reach the place overnight, get admitted in ICU and take tests, find solutions, only to realise nothing was done on time. We kept our calm because we didn’t want our frustration to affect her treatment. In West Bengal, 7 Labourers Quarantined On A Mango Tree In West Bengal Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

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Exorbitantly Expensive Hospital Bills

 I went home, freshened up and came back with food. We ideally wanted to discharge her once the consultation was done. We were handed over a bill of ₹30,000 rupees, I could not control my anger. I told them that even though there was a delay, nothing had happened. My sister wasn’t treated in the ICU and no doctor was available to help her out. Yet we were required to pay a huge sum of money and we felt really exploited. 

Picture used for reference ( Picture Credits: livemint.com)

Later they mentioned, it was a mandatory amount to be deposited as an advance. I used my media card and informed them that I could create issues. The staff called the trustees and informed them about my behaviour, later they asked me to go and meet the concerned person in his cabin. I went and sat with him. One thing that I experienced across was that no man was willing to discuss the situation with women. They always looked for the male member of the family. Maybe it was me and it is not generic to all girls, but I could literally see myself sitting there and asking questions, which they would either answer to my brother or other men present over there. 

The trustee informed us that they were willing to treat her for hypertension issues, but since she had symptoms of coronavirus, no doctor was willing to even come inside have a look at her. They further told us that they have made arrangements to get a COVID-19 test done for my sister, as a favour. So we were told to clear the bill and take the patient for a test.

Testing My Cousin For COVID-19

My brother heard the trustee shouting at me and he entered. As soon as he saw my brother, he lowered his voice and started talking in a calmer manner. He suggested us to get the COVID-19 test done and then discharge the patient. He in fact along with all the doctors, from the beginning of this incident, kept saying, it’s 99%, not COVID-19, but it’s still better to get the test done. We were never against getting it done, in fact, we were more than willing to. So we agreed to get all the tests done irrespective of the cost.  To get the coronavirus test done, we had to travel at a distant location, which was not possible for us overnight with her conditions. We were informed by the doctors earlier that she was suffering purely due to hypertension and not coronavirus.

However, paid ₹4500 for the test and ₹20,000 for hospital bill and medicines. We got the result and all the struggle was worth it. It was negative. My sister did not suffer from coronavirus. We were really relieved. However, the report was also not given on time, in fact, it was supposed to get delayed for 2 more days because of the weekend. We got it because the hospital had quarantined their staff and the hospital was putting pressure on them to get the results asap. At least the hospital helped us with that. Did you know Soon, Sniffer Dogs Could Be Trained To Detect Coronavirus?

My Thoughts On This Exasperating Situation

While I understand the response of doctors and police, everyone has their families too and while treating others they need to ensure the safety of their family. My point is, why drag it to a certain stage, monetize as much as possible and then declare what you have to? Clearly the same treatment could have been given in the first hospital. The other hospital didn’t do anything additional to better the situation. The same machines were being used to regularise her breathing. I could only see it as a money-making scheme. Maybe it was my situation, but we tried cooperating with them. But the further additions in the bill frustrated me further.  No hospitals were willing to take her in nor were we able to reach any contact number.

Picture used for reference ( Picture Credits: arabnews.com)

When we took her to the hospital on the first day, we wanted to get the COVID-19 test done, but we were said she is fit and fine physically, and no confirmation on symptoms was given from their end, so we were at peace. ₹4500, was okay, we could afford it. But if we are seriously trying to curb this problem as a nation, how on earth will a poor person pay for it? I did a little research, as of now Pune has come up with the kit which is really affordable and priced at ₹1200.

Most of the hospitals don’t have the equipment for the tests, and others are not willing to check the patients who would be suspects, as they fear the equipment once used on COVID-19 patient, can’t be used anywhere else. So they don’t want to treat the patient even for the symptoms. The doctor mentioned that he had 2 machines and one machine is put to use and another machine, he won’t be able to use after he treats my sister with it. Coronavirus has grappled every part of the world but This Is The World’s Only Place To Be Unaffected And Immune To Coronavirus

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There is no structure for this or maybe I was not well informed,  but we need to have better facilities as a country. I can only imagine what it would be like for people who are less privileged. Maybe they first look at the people and their spending capacity and then quote them a price.  But this behaviour will definitely not encourage them to take the right precautions. And lastly, we should do whatever we are being asked to do, as a precaution, because once we are in this shit, fighting the disease will come later. You will have to first fight a lot to get to the right place, get the right treatment and that too rightfully. And let me tell you that it’s really a tiresome process. Till then be safe and sound guys! 

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Trishana Goswami
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