A COVID-19 Survivor’s Reflections
By Ravi Batra
The best that has come out of these three weeks’ “Groundhog Day“ quarantine is: I realize more than ever how much I love, and how dear my family is to me and that they are the core joy of my life.
Let honor and humility, not greed and arrogance, define the brave new world after coronavirus is whipped, even as our casualties will be enormous during this near-Biblical war with Mother Nature.
“All of us started to pay some attention by February to the beautiful image of this new virus, the coronavirus. Indeed, the image looks like an exotic bouquet of flowers prepared by an expensive florist.”
Proving that we have no control over anything, I got the coronavirus infection. I don’t know when, from whom or from where. All I know is that on March 14th I not only had a fever, but a strange feeling in my body. By late afternoon, concerned with my temperature and my odd feeling, I called the New York State Department of Health to request it for COVID-19 test. The person on the other side was very gracious, but said they were just getting set up and that they would be back in touch with an appointment. Not having heard anything for five days, living in the City of New Rochelle, albeit 3 miles away from the area of containment ordered by Governor Andrew Cuomo, “ground zero,” so to speak, I called House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel’s wonderful chief of staff, Bill Weitz and told him my concerns and needs. He helped by giving me needed advice. I then called our talented family doctor Dr. Sammy Chitayat. He asked me a battery of questions, and concluded we needed to be tested for Coronavirus and issued prescriptions for my wife, Ranju, our miracle daughter Angela and me. Our precious son Neal was not then issued such a prescription as he was staying in Manhattan, while we were on the water in New Rochelle.
Armed with our doctor’s prescription for a coronavirus test for my family, off we went to Glen Island parking lot where NYS had set up its first testing site. The place was set up professionally as an organized maze. Instructed to keep all windows closed, we went thru the gauntlet until we were in a large tent. There, the testers wearing masks and clear face shields, did a nasal swab on each of us through each passenger’s slightly open window – open for 5-10 seconds. Test done, we were told we would get the results. By this time, we had fevers ranging from 101 – 103, mine the highest. Later, it would be obvious, that the coronavirus Ranju & Angie got must have been the original strain, while mine was a mutated one as it was more potent.
Friday, March 20th several things happened. Neal had called the night before to alert us to a possible magic bullet – use of an anti-malaria drug and Zithromax – to fight Covid19. On Friday, I confirmed with Neal that I understood what he was saying thru the fog of my brain. Also, I got calls from Albany NYS DOH that we were all positive and given instructions of when to go to the hospital. I called our doctor Sammy, updated him, and he prescribed Plaquenil & Zpak for all 3 of us. Luckily, we were able to get it that afternoon. I started taking both. Neal, in consultation with Ranju, over my objection, convinced Ranju that neither she nor Angela take it – unless their fever got really elevated. Otherwise, they should just rely upon my 3rd medicine: Tylenol. They were right, as their fevers never went past 102, while I hit 104.3 and was on fire.
Daily, I’d get checked by phone by our doctor, Sammy, who has the best bedside manners – in person, on the phone or text. I’d also get a call from Minister Hardeep Singh Puri – a call I’d not only take, but wait for, as he’d boost my strength and soul.
During the 104.3 fever days, when I was on fire and was putting ice cubes in my eyeballs, head and wrists to cool my blood, I rejected Ranju’s calls to go to the hospital – as I knew our home was cleaner and had fresh air from Long Island Sound. These fire days lasted 2-3 days, and I was richly aware that death was waiting outside my door for me.
I calmly and honestly – how can one not be honest with God – negotiated for my life, citing Robert Frost’s “walking in the woods’”: “I have promises to keep (to my family, always serving and caring Ranju, miracle Angie and precious son Neal), and miles to go before I sleep…”. I also argued that if God wanted me to continue to serve the Greater Good in society, then, that too militated in my continuing to live. I freely admitted that I had no reason to live for myself, as I’d had a most blessed life and was content – as in Frank Sinatra’s rendition of the song “My Way.” With God’s Grace I’m here to enjoy and protect my family and serve the Greater Good from the “shining city on the Hill.”
On the 5th day of taking meds, Sammy called to say he had learned that Plaquenil had a side effect: can cause heart damage, arrhythmia, and told me to stop. I did. So, I finished Zithromax, while Tylenol was my constant companion (3 dosage a day; during the 104.3 days, I took 4 dosages a day). Finally, after sixteen days, on March 29th, Sunday I hit 98.6 and became fever free (without taking Tylenol).
Since then, we’ve continued to remain in quarantine and self-isolation, which means we sleep in separate bedrooms and have separate individual bathrooms. Even when we sit around the dining table for meals, we maintain social distance of 6-10 feet. We’ve continued to remain in quarantine and self-isolation, to recuperate and recover.
The best that has come out of these three weeks’ “Groundhog Day“ quarantine is: I realize more than ever how much I love, and how dear my family is to me and that they are the core joy of my life. That dearest Hardeep was at least as powerful as all the medications I took to beat Covid19, and love him for it even more, if that’s possible.
Finally, the tsunami of prayers we received from dear friends – be they everyday people, members of congress, administration, local and state political leaders, judges, lawyers, ambassadors and ministers across the globe – was as heartwarming – as putting logs in a fireplace to keep the fire bright and roaring. The warmth and light never left our home or our life. We are so grateful to each and every friend – who contributed beyond mere medicine – and credit them for our beating Coronavirus.
A word about this virus. I’m a lawyer not a bio- chemist, but it is obvious to me from my experience that the coronavirus strain that I got was dressed to do a very friendly “handshake, a warm hug,” with my body’s auto immune system, fool it as if it was a dear friend, as a Trojan Horse, get in, and then start a war against my immune system – my Walls of Troy. Had it beaten my auto immune system and I succumbed to high fever, then my organs, lungs etc. was for it to feast on, and I to exit this mortal soil.
Thanks to the joy of seeing Ranju and Angela daily, spending whatever waking time together, accepting dearest Hardeep’s daily booster call, and the tsunami of prayers – we are alive today. President Donald Trump was right: with this lockdown we will discover our family again. I did. And I love them even more that before, and more than I knew.
I wish for humanity to survive this deceptively friendly coronavirus. I expect China to tell all – the raw truth – so every nations’ scientists and doctors, not just our hero, Dr. Anthony Fauci, can use “open source” data and find a vaccine ASAP. Until a vaccine isn’t available, nobody is coming out to work, play or go to school. The economy, national, regional and global we knew is dead; it’s not coming back.
We are going to see global supply lines become domestic. Ricardo’s “Comparative Advantage” principle is dead in these pandemic days. Our ventilators have parts made all over the world. This will stop. We will make our ventilators and N95 masks in the good ole USA. Export-based economies will shudder. Globalization is the OBOR for pandemics, and that too, must be disrupted for public health reasons.
Having talked to death, I feel energized to do good as never before. And I’m enjoying it. Even some strangers have stopped me to ask if I was the one at such and such place, when I did what I did. They tell me they saw it, and it touched their heart. I’m swimming in blessings. How can life be better, than to have a happy family and to try to make humanity happy and safer too…
Let honor and humility, not greed and arrogance, define the brave new world after coronavirus is whipped, even as our casualties will be enormous during this near-Biblical war with Mother Nature.”
(Ravi Batra is a New York based Attorney-at-Law. He is Chair, National Advisory Council South Asian Affairs. He can be reached at [email protected] )
Follow Ravi Batra on Twitter: @ravibatra