‘Fear Not’, say the COVID survivors from Zone 14 - Part 2
In a time when fear is spreading faster than the virus; where people are influenced by unverified information available in social media feeds, WhatsApp forwards, and search engines, these COVID warriors from Zone 14 burst the myths surrounding the disease, and present facts based on their experience.
When Aman (name changed on request) and his family was quarantined at a hotel after he returned from abroad, his son’s COVID result came out as positive. Though his family was given permission to be home quarantined, the members of his apartment complex were skeptical about isolating them at their residential premises fearing of transmission. Aman sought Dr.Venkatramanan’s help to dissuade the fears among the members. In a 24 minute long phone call, Dr.Venkatramanan, a.k.a. Dr.Venkat, Zonal Health Officer, Perungudi patiently addressed their doubts. The audio clip became viral and was circulated among various apartment associations.
“Every day, I was confronted with unique questions and my worry was more about tackling those questions than taking care of Aman. Luckily, he was asymptomatic and suggested home isolation for 14 days,” adds Aman.
Throughout our quarantine period, we followed the guidelines of the corporation, right from preparations of fiber and protein-rich dietary, and concoctions like Kabasura kudineer, Nilamvenbu kashayam, etc. The volunteers from the corporation motivated us regularly. The first advice I give my callers is to stay strong because we need a lot more strength to fight against the COVID prejudiced society than the virus itself.
Purushotaman, a traffic Police at Neelankarai leaves no stone unturned to keep himself and the fellow traffic policemen physically and mentally fit during this crisis. He can also be seen sensitizing the commuters about COVID and distributing Kabasura kudineer to the public. He got acquainted with Dr.Venkat when he took the COVID test. “I took the test owing to the nature of my work, where I need to stay at close proximity with people when detaining vehicles or checking the documents of vehicles and the drivers. Though my result came out as negative, I agreed to speak to people, especially public workers to keep them motivated during this time. A little empathy can do wonders in people’s lives and I am happy that I am able to provide emotional support to people when needed the most,” he enthusiastically states.
Varalakshmi, who took care of her 70-year old husband with Corona infection, offers advice to family members who are taking care of COVID infected members at home and shares instructions that need to be followed during the isolation period.
“I tell the family members to focus on eating a healthy diet, clean their house at regular intervals, limit contact with the infected person and avoid sharing personal items. Above all, I advise them to stay away from negative thoughts, stay optimistic and be supportive to each other to deal with the stress,” she explains.
Sai Murugan speaks to people with breathing issues and teaches them breathing exercises. After 15 days of isolation at a quarantine centre, Sai Murugan isolated himself in his room due to the fear of transmitting the virus to his family members. It was at that time that he experienced breathlessness.
“I became more terrified as I am an asthmatic patient and I could feel my condition worsen. So my friend immediately connected me to Dr.Venkat. He managed to calm me down and shared a video of a breathing exercise and instructed me to follow the steps as in the video. As my breathing regularised after repeating the routine, I was advised to go out and mingle with family members. He checked on me regularly and advised routine exercising. I later understood that I had had a panic attack,” narrates Sai Murugan.
He adds, “I tell people to get rid of their fears and continue their normal routine, especially to people with comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, and asthma, who are more anxious about complications, even if they show no symptoms. I ask them to stop over analysing little things as it would escalate their doubts. Having had a panic attack myself, I was able to relate to people’s worries. Apart from COVID, I also talk to them on other topics to calm them down. I also advise them to find a hobby or work to avoid anxiety while also enjoying togetherness with family.”
“COVID 19 infection has resulted in people having a pessimistic outlook, seeing everything as a risk to their safety. When I spoke to the residential complex’s members, they were worried about anything and everything, right from using the same hallways, using the balconies adjacent to his house and even the drainage connection. Addressing all these things became very important as most of the cases reported here are asymptomatic and are advised home isolation. When I reached out to our RDC, Dr.Alby John Varghese, he acknowledged the importance of installing this counselling team to address the myths surrounding the virus and its treatments. He encouraged our team to reach out to many people who were distressed. He believed that it can be a gateway to productive problem-solving and will create awareness against the stigmatization of COVID affected patients and their family members. Being optimistic can go a long way in managing through any difficult time of our life, not only COVID-19,” elucidates Dr.Venkataramanan.
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