One ‘false’ positive leads to trouble, stigma for this 73-year-old Delhi manUpdated: Apr 29, 2020 23:14 IST
Negative. Positive. Negative. Negative.
For a 73-year-old man from South Delhi’s Govindpuri Gali no. 13, fortune changed multiple times over a period of nine days. When the see-saw came to an end on Tuesday night, he returned home to a warm welcome after spending just five days in the Covid-19 ward of a private hospital.
“All his life, he had never been admitted to a hospital. When he got to know that he had tested negative, he kept pestering us to take him home,” his son says.
While the mood of the household after his return was joyous, their neighbours continue to stigmatise them. “Our neighbours are behaving as if even speaking to us could infect them,” his son adds.
The elderly man is a retired government officer and lives with his three children and their families in Govindpuri. He has high blood pressure and high sugar, which his family calls old-age ailments.
During the lockdown, the family says that they hardly ever stepped out of the home. “Only my brother stepped out to purchase essential items. The items he purchased would be kept outside the house for hours and he would mingle with the family only after bathing every time he returned,” he says.
But despite all precautions, by mid-April, the elderly man developed a fever that wouldn’t subside. He did not develop a cough or breathing issues though.
On April 19, his sons took him to Holy Family Hospital. “We were asked to get him tested for Covid-19. We got the tests done at Max Hospital in Saket. The result was negative on April 20,” his son says.
Around the same time, the elderly man’s other son too developed a fever but tested negative.
For the next couple of days, while the elderly man remained admitted to Holy Family Hospital, his doctors advised him to undergo a second test. “We got him tested again at an authorised private laboratory. The result this time was positive,” his son says.
The family suspected that he may have been infected while travelling to the lab in an ambulance.
They got him admitted to Max Hospital in Saket on April 23.
“We were all worried about his health. He was among five other patients in a ward at the hospital, but he felt so lonely,” his son says.
Back at home, his family allegedly battled discrimination from local residents even as their building was sealed.
“The shopkeeper refused to sell milk to us. Vegetable vendors would be told by neighbours to avoid our house. Our tenants couldn’t procure drinking water jars. We had to request a relative to drop essential items outside our home,” the man says.
But what hurt the family the most was videos of the house and their family circulating on WhatsApp groups. “We felt like we had committed a crime. Neighbours looked at us with such hatred in their eyes,” he says.
However, after a few days, they heard some good news. “On April 25, my father’s third test result was negative. We were happy, yet cautious. How could someone who tested negative one day test positive two days later and then negative after three days? There was a mistake somewhere, most likely with the results of the private lab which declared him Covid-19 positive,” the son says.
According to a senior Delhi government health official, “there is the possibility of errors in test results”. “There have been cases in which labs have declared people positive. They eventually turned out to be free of infection,” the official said, refusing to comment on any specific case.
The family’s concerns about the latest test result were dismissed when the fourth result on April 27 was also negative. He was finally discharged from the hospital on Tuesday night.
“When he walked in, we clapped and cheered for him. Five days earlier, we were worried about his life and now we had him back with us,” the son says.
Max Hospital cited patient confidentiality and refused to comment on this case.
The family may have won one battle in the hospital, but the battle closer home continues. “When all this is over, I’ll meet the local residents and tell them we hadn’t erred even once,” the son says while his father sleeps alone in a separate room at their home.