Stigma more traumatic than Covid-19: Telangana patient zero | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Stigma more traumatic than Covid-19: Telangana patient zero

Hindustan Times, Hyderabad | By
Apr 15, 2020 05:14 AM IST

Telangana’s first Covid-19 patient, was discharged from a hospital in Secunderabad after recovering from the disease, but his days in isolation continue to haunt him.

It has been a month since Hyderabad-based software engineer Ram, Telangana’s first Covid-19 patient, was discharged from a hospital in Secunderabad after recovering from the disease, but his days in isolation continue to haunt him.

A medic in a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit during the cremation of a Covid-19 victim, at Nigambodh Ghat in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, April 14, 2020.(Photo: Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)
A medic in a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit during the cremation of a Covid-19 victim, at Nigambodh Ghat in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, April 14, 2020.(Photo: Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)

He was alone in the hospital’s isolation ward located in a corner of the facility and did not see a single human face during his treatment. “Doctors who examined me twice daily were in protective gear and other paramedical staff, too, had their faces covered completely. I felt like I was in a different world,” said Ram on condition of withholding his surname. “It is not easy...especially when you are alone in the hospital room and nobody– neither your parents nor friends – can meet you for two weeks.”

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Ram, who tested positive on March 2, had just one visitor, Telangana health minister Etela Rajender, who came to meet him briefly on March 6. “He was very encouraging,” Ram said.

Ram had high fever and pneumonia but he was more worried about his family. “My main worry was what if my family members had contracted the virus? I was especially concerned about my father, who is diabetic. But luckily they all tested negative. And the doctors gave me the confidence that since I am young and physically strong, I can easily get cured,” he said.

Ram was given heavy doses of antibiotics as doctors advised him not to read too much about the disease. “Luckily for me, there was no television in my room nor were any newspapers. I was completely cut off from the rest of the world without knowing what is happening outside,” he said.

Ram mostly slept for the first few days at the hospital because of heavy medication. “I had my mobile phone and an iPad. I spent most of the time reading books on Kindle. Twice a day, I used to make video calls to my parents and that gave me a lot of peace,” he said. Ram’s mother would also sent him home-cooked food.

Ram was discharged on March 14 but advised home quarantine for another 14 days before his locality was declared a containment zone on April 10. “During this period, I realised how society can stigmatise you for no fault of yours. Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation had declared my colony as a containment zone though there were no other positive cases there. They told me it was because I had suffered from Covid-19, though I got cured a month ago. This social stigma is more traumatic than the disease.”

Telangana has 246 containment zones, out of which 126 are in Greater Hyderabad. The city also has nearly half of the 472 Covid-19 cases in the state. There are over 25,000 people under home quarantined in the state as well.

Ram also featured in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat radio address last month and the latter asked him how he contracted the virus. “I would like you to make an audio of your experience and share it on social media. It will remove fear from the people’s minds and at the same time make them aware of the necessary precautions to protect themselves,” Modi told him.

Ram said he wanted the society not to stigmatise Covid-19 patients. “I felt relaxed [after talking to Modi] and have learnt to deal with such crisis situations,” he said.

Ram is back to his routine now and working from home. “I went out to buy provisions from the supermarket nearby recently. Of course, nobody could recognise me, as I had a face mask on.”

Ram is back to his routine now and working from home. “I went out to buy provisions from the supermarket nearby recently. Of course, nobody could recognise me, as I had a face mask on.”

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