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Mohali: For many, road to recovery after coronavirus is long 

Doctors say it is too early to know the long-term impact of Covid-19; fatigue and weakness, among others, are common complaints of patients who have recovered.

Written by Parul | Chandigarh | September 11, 2020 11:50:23 am
A health worker takes a swab sample for Covid-19 testing in Ludhian. (Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

For Mohali-based Lalit Jain, a medical equipment supplier to leading hospitals in the region, standing for even two minutes is an effort. Jain, who was in home isolation, recovered from Covid-19 a fortnight ago, with his test coming negative after 15 days of testing positive. Yet, the 49-year-old continues to grapple with its effects.

Extreme tiredness, fatigue and a general sense of lethargy is something that Jain finds difficult to cope with. Being an active person, he spends long hours on the field because of his work. “The fact that I can’t walk for even more than two minutes is very tough to come to terms with. I can’t explain how it feels for your doctors tell you to start some physical movement around the house, which will help in recuperation, yet climbing just three stairs is difficult,” says Jain.

A day of fever with no other symptoms, and then testing positive hit him hard. Moving to an empty apartment below the main house, staying away from family, eating alone, so that no one gets exposed, Jain says the recovery and quarantine period does take a toll on both the body and mind.

For many, testing positive is a big shock, with anxiety and fear compounding the situation. Home isolation is another challenge, as you grapple with recovering on your own.

The pandemic is an epidemiological and psychological crisis, says Dr Hardeep Singh, a senior psychiatrist who agrees that the enormity of living in isolation with the disease has the potential to affect the mental health and well-being of many.

In this time of physical distancing, he adds, it’s critical to seek social support and connection with others and know the signs of anxiety, panic attacks and depression so that one can seek help.

“You can easily identify them, not just among your family, friends and neighbours, but for yourself,” he adds.

Nidhi Singh, a Sector 33-based lawyer, is recovering from Covid-19 at home and the word she used to describe her physical state is “fatigued”. Singh spent a long week at the hospital, as she developed a mild pneumonia of the lungs, and was on strong steroids and antiviral drugs, with constant monitoring.

“The disease has no set pattern and manifests itself in strange ways. I just had a mild cough for three days and no other symptoms, but when I started feeling some difficulty in breathing, I immediately went in for a test. Once my report came back positive, I decided to go to a hospital. What I have learned is that we must not ignore the slightest symptom, get tested immediately and let people know, for it is a highly contagious disease. And yes, why should any social stigma be attached to it?” asks Singh.

A vegan, who exercises regularly and has a very active lifestyle, Singh now finds it tough to even walk to the washroom and get out of bed. She doesn’t see resuming her normal life for at least another 15 days, and says the fatigue and weakness are indescribable. “I have mood swings, a craving for sweets sometimes and feel so much anxiety. All I can say is that we can’t be flippant about it, though the human spirit is amazing and our will to fight back is what is very important.”

Dr Pankaj Malhotra, Department of Internal Medicine, PGIMER, says that Covid-19 is not just one disease. According to him, 80 per cent of the cases are mild or as asymptomatic and they recover completely. Those with severe disease face complications, like pneumonia and may require oxygen or put on a ventilator and here too, we do not know if the complications are because of coronavirus or the ventilator. “These patients can have some medical issues and need follow-up and regular medical monitoring. But as I always tell my patients, when on the road to recovery, the work of medicines is about 40 per cent, the rest is your will, family and social support, a good diet, physical activity, a happy state of mind. These components are vital and it’s mostly in patients with co-morbidity and old age that we are seeing deaths. Yes, most of the patients experience weakness, fatigue and tiredness and I believe taking small steps towards some physical activity will help in the recovery of both the body and mind.”

Ravneet Dhaliwal, a resident of Sector 46, was home quarantined with her parents, after all three tested positive. She recounts how with no household help, extraneous support and being alone at home, each day was tough to deal with. While her mother experienced severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea, Ravneet could not cope with the tiredness and recalls how she had no strength to prepare a simple meal for her parents, and look after them and herself.

“Just walking to the other room was a task and sometimes you would wonder if I would ever feel normal again,” shares the student, who is in her twenties.

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While doctors agree it is too early to know the long-term implications of the disease, fatigue, weakness, body ache, irregular bowel habits, loss of taste, smell and appetite are common complaints of patients who have recovered from the coronavirus infection, and in the long-term complication lung fibrosis could be one.

Dr Rajat Vats, a physician in GMSH-16, who tested positive and is now in home isolation, agrees weakness and fatigue are experienced by most patients, as he also experienced the same.

As for the long-term effects, he says studies on it have to be still done.

“Weakness will go with time, and decrease in appetite could be because of no physical activity, stress and anxiety. Also the patient is struggling with the virus, and there is a loss of taste and smell,” sums up the doctor.

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