COVID-19 … FEVER, FEAR AND FREEDOM
Yes, I’m in a hurry.
I’m in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.
I do not intend to waste any of the remaining desserts.
I am sure they will be exquisite,
much more than those eaten so far.
My goal is to reach the end satisfied
and at peace with my loved ones and my conscience.
We have two lives
and the second begins when you realize you only have one.
Mário de Andrade
The sun was shining brightly outside and it felt like an invitation for a long walk. I was feeling fresh after my shower. I got ready quickly knowing that in the UK, weather changes faster than the mood swings of cyclothymiac.
I was feeling a slight weakness as I was putting my shoes but the excitement of going out after 38 days to enjoy the fresh air was irresistible. There was no fever from the last 14-15 days, no headache and cough as well. It was my first day out since my recovery from illness with COVID* like symptoms.
Unfortunately after struggling for more than three weeks with all the symptoms, it remained a mystery to me and my family, if I ever had the COVID or not. Here in the UK/London, there is no way to get tested for COVID. For the vast majority of people like me, there is no option to get tested unless it is very severe or you are some important personality. (Prince Charles was tested positive for Covid, UK Prime minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised due to COVID)
I was reading about the COVID from early Feb and started taking precaution before it became widespread. I was observing the exponential rise in the number of cases. I was trying to analyse the data and thinking about the distribution that the data fits into. I was washing my hands frequently, avoiding crowded places. I knew that very soon it is going to reach UK.
On Saturday, March 14th 2020 and I had a fever around 38.2 C (100.76 F). As a precaution I did self-isolation, The fever lasted for about 2-3 days. Then my wife also had fever and I was really worried. She recovered within 2-3 days. We both were relieved that nothing serious happened to us but we were conscious of not going out and put ourselves or others at risk. Luckily we had the essential things at home and there was no need to step out. (The number of cases worldwide at that point was 142,439, In the UK it was 1,140, in India 82 and US 1,678).
The media was full of negative news, the panic buying of toilet rolls was flooding the social media. There was a speculation that in a few days the lockdown will be imposed. My only panic buying was a laptop (I ordered online) and later it proved to be a wise decision. Overall there was a sense of fear all around.
After 4-5 days one afternoon, I was feeling very uncomfortable with an intense headache. I had a sudden rise in temperature and did not realise it. I was also not ready to accept that I’m getting the fever a second time. my wife tried to convince me that I’m worrying unnecessarily. That afternoon, I had a cup of tea and then went to wash my hands and I suddenly felt dizzy and blacked out. I regained my consciousness quickly. As I was trying to comprehend the situation I observed thousands of thoughts bombarding in all directions, few were reassuring me but most of them were alerting some danger. My wife started calling the NHS as we wanted some guidance about what to do? What medications to take etc.
Luckily the previous day we had arranged a room for self-isolation and I quickly moved there with my books and phone. The lines at NHS were extremely busy; the line was on hold for a few hours. I took some paracetamol and waited for the NHS line to connect but it was in vein. I had some food and slept off.
Next day though I had fever, I was feeling much better and to my surprise, I had a call from the NHS, a volunteer spoke to me and advised me to speak with the member of the medical staff. He connected me to the NHS, this time it was fast. I had to be on the line for less than an hour. But the call was worth the wait, the NHS staff was calm and listened to me patiently and asked me to watch out for two things: breathlessness and constant high temperature.
Then he also mentioned a few precautions to protect others in the family. The only medication was to continue with the paracetamol and nothing for the cough. After the call I felt relieved but at that time I had no clue that it was going take me a few weeks to recover.
I kept taking paracetamol and monitoring my temperature and also kept myself hydrated. The following graph shows my temperature, headache and cough levels over a period of 4 weeks. (Headache and Cough are approximated to fit the graph).
Few distinct symptoms.
The cough was very distinct, I never had that kind of dry cough, I used to have few bouts of cough once in a few hours initially that reduced over a period of time. The cough was very dry and it used last for some time (once it lasted for few hours but normally around 20-30 minutes). The intensity, duration and frequency came down over a period. There was always fear about this cough. I tried to control it through ginger, honey and warm water and I’m not sure if it had any impact on it but at least I used to feel like I was doing something.
The headache was also unique. Normally I feel ache on the front side towards my forehead during the common cold. This time it was on the backside.
Initially, I was expecting the fever to come down after 3-4 days. I was really worried when it continued in week 2. During this time I realised how restless my mind was, I could identify the fear of the unknown and the fear of something bad happening.
The conflict between “What is ..” and “What can be ..” the series of thoughts around “What if …?”. These thoughts were so powerful thatI used to feel helpless.
After about 9-10 days, I got used to the routine but fear of the unknown was creating the stress. It was not clear how long this phase was going to last. I had the question “I’m I missing something?”. I was not sure whether to take it easy or take it seriously. On the internet and social media, I was finding only about the number of cases and the death rates but no details about people who recovered, about their symptoms while recovering and how long it takes to recover etc. (after some time I totally stopped reading any news around Covid or news in general, also avoided social media to a large extent). Started listening to podcasts and audio books.
When I completed two weeks (on the 14th day), I said to myself “it is enough now!!” and decided “let me accept what is happening and surrender completely”. That was the beginning of my experiencing freedom. I really felt liberated. Though I had fever, the freedom from fear was very liberating.
I had a new laptop to explore. I started experimenting with mixing music, coding, reading (and listening) books and tidying up my table.I started enjoying the care, space, and the time.
I have observed as humans we have this duality, sometimes we are confident and say “I’m in control my destiny” and march forward and other times when there are obstacles, we say “I’m helpless” and behave like a mouse in the mousetrap. Most of the time we are on this continuum but there is a third option in a different space and that is “operating from the space of surrender”. It is like the teachings of the Gita – “You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction.”
My intention of writing this blog was to share my experience and to communicate that COVID is not life threatening but it is contagious. With patience and right information it can be managed. If you can control your mind then you can control any situation, by default the mind goes into the negative mode and it up to you to handle it.
If you are worried about COIVID and it’s fatality then have a look at some data. Globally 800,000 people die from suicide every year* compared to total deaths from COVID till now 345,991. (also there were 1.25 million road traffic deaths globally in 2013 as per WHO)
COVID is dangerous because it spreads (contagious) and not because it is fatal (the death ratio is small compared to many diseases). This can be fatal for people with underlying medical conditions. So we need to be careful to protect the vulnerable people around us.
If you are still worried about COVID then talk to someone or drop a note to me. The intention of writing this blog was to help you to observe the world from a different perspective.
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.Easwaran, Eknath. The Dhammapada (Easwaran’s Classics of Indian Spirituality) (p. 107). Nilgiri Press.
I’m grateful for my family, friends and all the people who cared and helped me during this challenging time.
If you have come across any good resources/idea to deal with COVID please mention them in the comments below.