Akhil Ennamsetty of Warangal who returned from the UK became Telangana’s ‘Patient-16’ after he tested positive for coronavirus. After spending a fortnight in quarantine in Gandhi Hospital and testing negative on Thursday, he got discharged. The 24-year-old shared details of his 15-day life in quarantine in a freewheeling chat with Telangana Today.
“I am pursuing my PG in Human Rights Law from Univerisity of Edinburgh. After coronavirus broke out, Britain initially followed the ‘herd immunity’ policy believing that people would develop immunity and did not shut down clubs, stadiums, universities and large public gatherings. Later, they decided to go for lockdown measures. All Indian students were worried and were discussing whether to return to India or not. Then suddenly India announced that no flights from UK or Europe would be allowed to land after March 18. There was a mad scramble to book tickets. I managed to get one on March 17 while many who could not are still stranded in UK.
Though there was some kind of tension to travel amid this widespread panic, I wasn’t scared. I knew I had to take precautions. I tried my best to stay sanitised, avoid touching surfaces and maintained distance from other travellers. Though it was difficult to practice, a lot of other travellers too were doing the same. I called up my parents, friends and asked them not to come to the airport. I told them I had to get the diagnostic tests done first.
I had a lingering suspicion that I could have contracted coronavirus, though I was absolutely normal and healthy. I read about the asymptomatic nature of this disease. So I wasn’t ready to take any kind of risk which would put my family, friends and the whole society in danger. I was trained in emergency paramedic service in UK. This helped me take care not to contaminate anyone. I was trained to tackle any kind of health emergencies like these, biomedical or chemical attacks etc.
I reached Hyderabad in the wee hours of March 19. I had a mild sore throat by the time I landed and went to the health desk at RGIA. I told them about my travel history and the symptoms. I was told that it wasn’t mandatory to quarantine passengers coming from the UK. I was told to follow self-isolation at home. They also told me to go to Gandhi Hospital if I had any doubts. So I checked into a hotel to spend the next few hours and went to Gandhi Hospital in the morning. During my stay at the hotel, I took extreme care not to contaminate the space. I asked the room boys to not come into my room. I did not even use the washroom there.
Considering my health and near absence of any symptoms, I was confident that I would test negative. But to my shock I tested positive and officially became ‘Patient 16’ of Telangana, the next morning. My family and friends were not prepared to hear this news. But at that moment I thanked myself for one of the best decisions I had taken in my life — decline to meet anyone after returning to India. As soon as I was told about my result, I informed the authorities about my hotel stay and requested them to get the room sanitised. It was later decided that no one else was needed to be isolated in my chain of contacts due to the precautions followed by me.
I knew there won’t be any danger to my life as I had a fairly good idea about this pandemic. I knew that my healthy body and my young age would easily battle this out. That was the reason I did not panic. Even my parents being the educated ones had no reason to panic.
The medical staff was friendly and told me that my immunity was overpowering the virus. I faced breathlessness and respiratory congestion and exhaustion sometimes. But I wasn’t worried. I realised that being asymptomatic was the speciality of this virus. This was also the experience of fellow patients. Coronavirus will test one’s mental strength and will power. You will need to keep your spirits super high to support your body in this battle. You will gradually start to experience that your body is combating something deadly inside and it drains a lot of energy. One needs to be very strong mentally to overcome this. I tried to stay positive since day one. When you see that other patients are getting critical, or succumbing, you get nervous. But one shouldn’t lose your will power and positive belief.
The isolation wards at Gandhi Hospital are well maintained. My ward had plenty of light and good ventilation. This helped me stay active. The bed sheets and hazmat suits were changed every day and the wards were cleaned and mopped too. We were given packaged drinking water and packed food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We got dry fruits for snacks besides tea and coffee. The doctors checked us after breakfast and customised treatment for each patient as per the symptoms.
I made friends with the healthcare workers. The sad part of my stay was that I did not know who treated me as the doctors wore complete masks. Only through their voice, I can recognise them. I do not know how to thank them. Using the WiFi facility, I could be in touch with my family and friends. I also listened to online lectures from my university and also worked on my project on human rights activism with the Clinton Foundation.
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