On the 12th of April, Sunil K (name changed) went to see his family doctor. He was running a fever and his body felt slower, less agile than usual. The doctor, who knew them well, prescribed some medication and told him to rest. The medicines that normally worked like a charm did nothing for him this time. Feeling uneasy he decided to go to a regular hospital in the area. There too, his questions met with the same answers though the medicines were changed. “I bought those medicines as well and decided to give it a try. After all these were experts who were telling me that I was ok. My hesitant queries about Corona were brushed off and I was told to sleep it off.” When the medicines refused to work this time too, Shashikant decided to go to Sasoon Hospital, to be directed to this ward and that, but here too he was told that there being nothing wrong with him. “I have all the prescriptions with me, but I knew that there was something more to this breathless feeling and leaden legs. Your instinct tells you that there is something wrong, no matter what the expert opinion is”, he says.
Determined to get tested so he could rule out COVID definitively, Sunil went to the ambulance that had come to his Vasti and convinced them to check him out. Moved by his plight and seeing that he was suffering, they took him to Naidu hospital where they took a nasal swab. “At this point, I was extremely unwell with fever, body ache, and fatigue. I had no appetite, no will to talk to anyone”. Fortunately, they took him complaints seriously and on 16th April quarantined him in Kharadi till the results were expected. Here, a new experience awaited him. The care givers did not seem to care. They were afraid to come close. “I understand that everyone is scared and fears for their lives. Who can understand this better than us? We as waste pickers are in essential services and gather waste every day and put ourselves at risk. But such callousness will only make a patient feel worse. The food, medicines everything was just pushed at us from a distance.”
On the morning of the 18th, he got the results and his worst fears were realized. “I was also relieved that they had something to treat. My family too could get the help they needed. My wife Varsha, who works with me, my two young kids, my mother, my brother and his family were all tested. My Wife and nephew tested negative and were quarantined immediately. Others were sent to Sahyadri hospital for recovery. Interestingly, none of them felt anything and would have gone about life as usual, had it not been for my insistence on getting tested.”
Today, the family is back together at home, grateful for their good health. All members of the family from ages 6 years to 50 years are fit and raring to go. None of his family members would have known that they were corona positive if it were not for him. “It was good I got the symptoms, so I could stop the spread. Corona is tricky and can just bounce off some of us on to others. Persistence pays, so speak up if your body tells you something. Listen to your body. We are essential workers and protect the health of the city without asking any questions about those we service. But it is only if our questions get answered and we get a hearing that we can protect the health of everyone.” says Sunil.
Names have been changed to protect the identity of those concerned.
To help him and families like his to stay safe, please contribute for PPE kits and rations.