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“I’m just an ordinary doctor.” 

A glass thermometer lies against a pink background.
By Radhika Sumanam

Hyderabad
Telangana
India

“Real strength is determined when one faces their worst fear.” I don’t know whose words these are but I truly believe that, and my full respect to that person. 

I’m just an ordinary doctor, to be specific just an ordinary anaesthesiologist working in a private hospital. I regard myself as ordinary because my life is pretty routine and boring according to today’s youth’s standards. I usually work for around 10–11 hours a day for 6 days a week. Back at home I spend around 4–5 hours with my family each day, and the rest goes to sleeping. So according to most my life is pretty ordinary!  

Here my family needs a special mention. Being a single parent is difficult, on top of it being a working parent is Herculean. Both my kids are adorable but mischievous. My parents and grandmother stay with me, and they are the foundational pillars of my family. I love and respect them. So this is pretty much my ordinary life. 

My world started slowly tumbling down because of the ongoing pandemic. Initially there were only accounts of the pandemic from other parts of the world. We as doctors were discussing only the encounters from our friends from overseas. Slowly the pandemic made its entry into our land. That was when, for the first time in my life, I regretted my decision to become a doctor. First of all, I felt useless, as I was not able contribute to help finding a cure or a treatment for the disease. Second and most importantly, I feared that I would bring harm to my family. 

I was wallowing in my regret for days [at a time]. I spoke to my colleagues and my friends about it but none of it helped me. I couldn’t confront my fears in front of my family. They already knew they could become the victims of this pandemic as they were the immediate family of a front-line doctor. 

[A few days later] I started developing symptoms — initially sore throat and low-grade fever. I started isolating myself from my family as I had a hunch of what it could be. Two days later I had developed a dry cough and severe body pains. I was sure that my intuition was coming true but still I prayed that my intuition would be proved wrong. I felt like my whole self was sinking into a pit of darkness. It felt as though I was getting sucked into a black hole! 

I became emotionally fragile and I started shouting at my family. My mom, especially, received the brunt of my anger. I shut myself away from communicating with the external world, especially my colleagues, relatives, and friends. I cocooned myself in a shell of self-pity and helplessness. A week after the start of my symptoms, my mom developed a fever and cough. My mom, who is 64 and has high blood pressure and diabetes. I feared for her. I cried and cried throughout the night that my worst fear came true. 

After that night a thought hit me really hard. If not me, who will help my mom, who will support my dad in this perilous situation? That’s it, I wanted to pull myself together. Then I started meditation. I listened to music a lot, especially those songs created by my favorite boy band. Listening to their songs calmed my mind. I was able to think rationally again. It took me three days to be myself again. All these days my 84-year-old grandmother took charge of household chores and the responsibility of feeding my kids, while my dad was taking care of my mom. I was so involved in wallowing in self-pity, I didn’t think about my kids.  

Once I regained myself, the first thing I did was to get admitted into a government hospital along with my mom to get the [COVID-19] test done. We had to wait for 3 days to get the test results as inpatients. The environment in the hospital was pleasantly clean and airy. They served healthy and hot food every day. We got our test results, and we both were declared positive. Though I was not surprised, my dad felt a little taken aback. He was expecting at least my mom would turn out to be negative. We got discharged after [signing] the self-declaration forms saying that we will get quarantined at home. Meanwhile my dad sent a message to the apartment community that we were declared positive and we were to be quarantined at home. 

What happened next surprised me a lot. All 65 families in our apartment complex extended their solidarity to my dad and asked if any help was needed. I was encouraged by this kind of attitude. As we got home another bomb was dropped on me. My grandmother was having a [fever]. She did not have any other symptoms but I was cautious. I told her to get isolated in her room. So my dad was all alone to take care of us, sick patients, my kids, and all the household chores. We were locked up in our house except for daily essentials like milk and fruits and food, which was supplied by my aunt, for which my dad opened the main door. 

After 3 days my grandmother’s temperature came down and except for fatigue she was fine. I sighed in relief but I told her to stay in room for the next 7 days. After we got back home both my and my mom’s cough also decreased, and we were free from temperature spikes. I continued my meditation and listening to my music, which gave me renewed energy to keep moving forward and also kept all my negative thoughts at bay. After 17 days of home quarantine we were allowed to move around within the house and also outside the house. 

This long, perilous journey with many peaks and troughs has finally come to an end. I’m very grateful to my family, especially my kids, for their patience, my friends and relatives for their continued well wishes, and my neighbors and colleagues for their solidarity. I bow to all of them in respect. 
 
Life is full of uncertainties. If you face them with positive outlook and a smile, then life surprises us! 

Thank you all. Stay positive, stay healthy, stay gold! Signing off. 
Yours affectionately, 
Dr. Radhika Sumanam 
(Just an ordinary doctor)

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