From the first floor of her house in Vadodara’s Marathi Mohalla, a frail Gangaben Prajapati emerges, wearing a mask, folding her hands for a photograph. Her son-in-law Mahendra Prajapati, 66, stands beside the 90-year-old woman. Both are in the mandatory quarantine after recovering from Covid-19.
Gangaben from Vadodara is the one of the oldest patient to have recovered from the disease, despite having developed bilateral pneumonia. Her case was cited by Principal Secretary, Health, Jayanti Ravi to state how age was not a limit in the fight against Covid-19. “Gangaben Prajapati was very active in her regular life but was hypertensive. She had bilateral pneumonia and was given antibiotics. She successfully defeated Covid-19 and was discharged on May 12,” Ravi had said.
But the 90-year-old has not been told that her daughter, Bhikhiben, 63, had succumbed to the infection.
Bhikhi’s daughter-in-law Neetu, 40, says, “We have not told nani (Gangaben) yet because she will not be able to bear this pain at the moment. We have told her that my mother-in-law is in the hospital. She has been telling us that she wants to speak to Bhikhi over the phone, but we have told her to wait for a few days.”
On the evening of April 24, Bhikhi was rushed to the SSG hospital after she complained of breathlessness. She tested positive on April 25 and passed away on April 26, and showed no reported co-morbidity.
Her son, Yogesh, 43, says, “The doctors had called me on April 25 and told me that she was critical and her heart rate was not stabilizing.” The same day, Gangaben and Bhikhi’s husband, Mahendra, also tested positive while Yogesh, his wife Neetu and their two sons —aged 17 and three years — tested negative.
Doctors who treated the mother and daughter at the SSG hospital say both of them had no co-morbidities and that the only difference in the two cases was the stage in which the disease was diagnosed. Dr Rajeev Daveshwar, Superintendent of SSG Hospital, says, “While Bhikhiben had arrived in a critical stage with breathlessness and her lungs already collapsing, Gangaben was diagnosed in time as a close contact of Bhikhiben. We couldn’t do much for Bhikhiben although she didn’t have co-morbidities because we didn’t have the time. With Gangaben, she responded to the treatment and recovered although she must be among the oldest cases in Gujarat, due to two reasons. One is that she was diagnosed before turning critical and second, she had no co-morbidities. Both these parameters are critical for recovery.”
Bhikhi had not shown any symptoms of the disease, according to the family. Neetu said that Bhikhi had developed fever about ten days prior she complained of breathlessness. “She consulted our family doctor, who gave her regular medicines since she had no other symptoms of Covid-19. He recommended a typhoid test, which turned out normal and she regained her health. But for two days before we had to rush her to the hospital, she was complaining of severe ache in her legs. Now, when we think, we wonder if we missed Covid-19 symptoms since so much emphasis is laid on cough and fever only” Neetu says.
Yogesh says the virus has broken the family. “My mother had no illness. When she complained of breathlessness on April 24, I did not even anticipate that it would turn into this… That I would never see her again.”
Yogesh said that both Bhikhi and her husband Mahendra have been Gujarati folk singers and Bhikhi had been a regular performer at government stage shows. Yogesh, too, is often a part of Bollywood musical tours with winners of reality shows.
Yogesh’s three elder sisters, who live in Surat, were unable to make it for their mother’s funeral.
“This has taught me how this disease can come to the most unexpected places. We had no contact with any known positive patient. Apart from going out to fetch groceries, my mother did not even travel anywhere,” Yogesh says.
Gangaben is spending her home quarantine in prayer and attending to simple personal chores. “She has difficulty in hearing, but she sits by her terrace to look outside , although everything around has been shut,” says Yogesh.