Fear of coronavirus infection and desperate search for hospital bed

By Nepal All

Updated 10:46, 05 Nov 2020

Image for Representation. Photo: TRN

Kathmandu: May be you have this fear in you that you might contract COVID-19 any time and how to avail of treatment in case you become infected with it. On top of it, the people in your area and neighbourhood behave with you as if you are a pariah. Even the attitude of your close relatives and friends towards you starts changing. Possibly there are only a few people who do not have this thought at present as the coronavirus infection rate is high in the country. Many people are contracting the deadly virus even when following health safety protocols and precaution.
The media and social sites are full of this sort of experiences of the people. Many statuses in the social sites go like this: "I happen to contract coronavirus despite of adopting health precaution. Those who have come in my contact, please get yourself tested. Protect yourself and others from Corona." And there are statuses announcing the sad and untimely demise of relatives, friends and near and dear ones, with words of condolences.
You and me have similar thoughts and have been adopting alertness. Even though it is not coronavirus, I had to go through the same pain that a critically infected coronavirus patient has. Perhaps, personal experience might match with other people's experience. 
Yes, in my case I nearly fell in the jaws of death not due to coronavirus infection but for its fear. The two hours' desperation and pain at hospital became for me a nightmare. I had slight symptoms of pneumonia due to the seasonal viral flu. I had body pain in the beginning with mild fever (less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and three more days of cough and cold. After seven days I also wrote status on my Face book wall that I was OK. But since mild cough persisted, I didn't want to take risk and went for a health checkup at the Emergency Ward of Civil Service Hospital at Naya Baneshwor. 
Date: October 20, Time- nearly 6pm. I reached the emergency ward of Civil Service Hospital with an assistant. I was in normal health when I had my health examined by physician at the Medical Department in the afternoon. The doctor asked me for having chest X-ray. The OPD service at the hospital was already closed when I returned with my chest X-ray report. I came to know that the OPD service was open only up to 12 noon. Pneumonia was suspected in me as my chest X-ray showed a small blot. I thought I have to act in time if it was pneumonia. Since the OPD service was closed at the hospital, I returned home. My spouse, who is a staff nurse, suggested immediately seeing a doctor and starting medication. How can this be possible at this hour? The clock had struck beyond 8 pm. An alternative came in mind – to go to the Emergency. I felt short of breath. I rushed to the Civil Hospital. There were not many patients in the Emergency Ward. There were few patients with respiratory problem and abdomen ailment. I was in normal condition. The health workers inquired about my health. They said I had symptoms of coronavirus infection and I needed to have PCR test anyhow. They took my temperature. It was 99.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The doctors became anxious. The temperature jumped suddenly after getting to hospital. Before, it was 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit when I measured it at home just before leaving for hospital. They measured my body oxygen level. It was also normal. Then, I had my blood tested. I had to wait for two hours for the blood test report.
To make matters worse, I was told that I have to wait for four days more to have the blood culture report. In the meantime, the doctor sent me to a tent pitched outside the hospital suspecting coronavirus infection. I went to the tent. I was the only patient there. Health workers would not come to see me. I thought I was in prison. The doctor also instilled fear in me. The hospital does not refer a pneumonia patient to go home. They told me to promptly find a bed with oxygen system. Now, I was at my wit's end. Where should I search for a hospital bed with oxygen system in the night-time?  I asked the hospital authorities if they have any beds available at this hospital and whether that was possible. A terse reply came -"Find out in other hospitals."
I mobilized my acquaintances to find a hospital bed for me at the Bir Hospital, Patan Hospital, TU Teaching Hospital Maharajgunj and some private hospitals. But to no avail. None of the hospitals had bed available. This was not only my agony. There were two other patients desperately in search of available hospital beds. 
The only request of the doctors to patients coming to the Emergency Ward was: "There is no bed here. Find the bed yourself in other hospitals. Please, come with negative PCR report." I pleaded with the Civil Service Hospital's director and the high officials at other hospitals if they could find a hospital bed for me. My plea went unheard. I sought the possible help from all. But all this was in vain again. With no outlet in sight, I decided to seek help from the Minister level. However, I did not ring up the Minister's phone. It is almost 8 at night. I had my blood test report. It showed no infection in my body. The doctors asked me to have a PCR test. Again, I didn't know what to do. Where do I go for having a PCR test done at night? I straight away went to the Kathmandu Medical College at Sinamangal after a moment of dilemma. I gave my swab for PCR test there.
With desperation, I went to the Medical Department at Civil Hospital on October 21 although I was told to come there only with the PCR negative report. I was very worried and could not wait for the PCR report, so I rushed to the hospital. Moreover, I had to show the X-ray report to the doctor. 
"It is only ordinary pneumonia. No need to worry," the doctor said to me after observing the X-ray report. I was prescribed antibiotic and some vitamins. However, they cautioned me to take antibiotics only if I tested negative for coronavirus in the PCR test. Again, the anxiety in me heightened with these words of the doctor. There was no option but to live with the fear and nervousness. The same day in the evening, I went to collect my PCR report at the KMC Hospital at Sinamangal. I took the report without asking the person at the counter. The report was negative. My happiness knew no bounds to know that I tested negative for coronavirus infection.
To tell you the truth, the two hours inside the tent at Civil Service Hospital were like near-death experience for me. I had already started thinking about my wife and three-year-old son. My relatives were also very worried. The neighbours used to avoid me. I felt they were biased against me. I had this thought what would I do if other members of my family also contracted COVID-19, when there were no hospital beds available. I was overwhelmed only by negative thoughts.
I started taking medicine prescribed by the doctor after I showed him my PCR report which was negative for coronavirus infection. I felt much better and healthy after completing the medicine dose for seven days. Now, I am working from home since the doctors have advised me to stay at home and rest for some days as I am freshly recovered from pneumonia. 
After undergoing this bitter experience myself, I am still not happy as I listen to and watch the news of the increasing number of cases in the country and thinking about the condition of a commoner Nepali. Precaution is a must in such situation. Coronavirus infection is spreading in many people despite their adopting health safety protocols issued by the World Health Organization and the government. There are both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases increasing in spite of high precaution.
Almost all hospitals in the capital are full of patients at a time when the infection rate is high. There are no beds available at the government hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. The patients can get hospital bed only after waiting for three days to a week. Can you imagine of the health condition of the critically-ill patient during this period? It is difficult to get beds at private hospitals as well while some hospitals are making excuses although they have beds available.
In such situation, it is high time that the authorities concerned pay attention to making provision for timely treatment and management of corona test so that a patient will not have to bear all the tribulations and die untimely death.

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