Delhi, one of the most privileged cities in India, with one of the best health care infrastructure, is in the throes of one of its worst crises. During the first wave of the pandemic, there was a load of 9000 cases per day. Even though the health care system was strained, we were able to navigate the first wave by adequate measures. And in January, the cases were less than 100 in this city with a population of 2 crore, which is almost four times the population of New Zealand. People have started to come back to their routine, exposing their nose and mouth freely. During March, just when everything seems normal, cases have begun increasing in Nagpur and Mumbai. Experts have started warning about the second wave. Oblivious to the coming apocalyptic situation and the mutating virus, the government started promoting India in the end game of the pandemic. Normal people flocked to cinema halls, malls, and restaurants.
Within the next 15 days, there are large queues of scared and anxious people outside covid testing centers, news about people dying due to shortage of oxygen, stories about people who have bought loans to buy medicines. Despite all these, people have started going to Kumbhmela, where 7 million people have participated. Government officials have started election campaigns where thousands of people have participated.
One day bored of the lockdown, I have called up my friend to have a casual chat. He earns close to INR 2 million every year, and he will easily in the top 5% wealthiest people in India. Till then, I know the situation was terrible, but I didn’t think that the second wave would also hit the privileged people.
He said that one day, suddenly, his temperature has increased, and he is not able to smell or taste anything. He has then isolated and got the whole family tested. His mother has diabetes, and hence he was very concerned. My friend has tested positive, and luckily both his parents tested negative.
But just after five days, both his parents have started showing symptoms. His father, who doesn’t have any pre-existing illness, started becoming tense due to anxiety. And within a day’s time, his oxygen levels have begun falling. And the family doctor has suggested my friend to admit his father immediately after checking the CT scan reports as the liquid has started forming in the lungs.
He called all the private hospitals with the limited strength he had, thinking that finding beds in more expensive private hospitals would be easier. But, just after calling some ten hospitals, his worst fear came true. All the beds in the city were occupied.
Then after calling up some contacts and with the help of a recommendation from a local official, they were able to get a bed in one hospital. Then the doctor said that he needs to be admitted to the ICU immediately and start medication. The doctor said all the ICU beds are entirely full and should start looking in other hospitals. It required an assiduous effort to get one hospital bed, and now where on earth can he get an ICU bed.
After tons of messages on social media and hundreds of calls from family and friends, they could shift to another hospital, which was charging double the normal rate. All this was when he himself was on medication and experiencing severe fatigue. Among this chaos, he also needed to keep a check on his mother at home.
Then the next day, the doctor has prescribed six vials of Remdesivir. Within a span of few hours, the next round of calling has begun to all the pharmacies. They were calling hundreds of numbers floating on social media. One pharmacist said he has stock, and he has asked his friend who stays in that area to go and check. The pharmacist has demanded Rs 20000 for a single vial, 20x more than the actual MRP. Without any other choice, he and his friend went to the pharmacy only to realize that he was selling counterfeit products.
Later that day, through his uncle, they were able to procure remdesivir, and the treatment began. Through all this, his mother, who has stayed positive, helped the whole family. Otherwise, handling all this would have been a gargantuan task. He was made to run from one corner of the hospital to another corner just to complete the signing of a doctor. After admitting, he or his family members weren’t allowed to see or talk. All the communication is through the doctors and nurses, who were working round the clock tirelessly.
He saw deaths every hour in the hospital, and he wasn’t able to stay strong after hearing the screams of the relatives who have lost their loved ones. He broke down multiple times during this phase. After three days, he has tested negative, and after five days of medication, his father got discharged.
Due to his affluent status and rich contacts, my friend was somehow able to get a timely bed and medicines. This incident happened one week before the oxygen crisis peaked. And to think about the poor people who don’t have the online resources, money and network will send shivers across the body. And the situation of helplessness to support these people would make us feel bad about ourselves.
Another incident is the story of Arunima, who has lost her father. She wasn’t even able to send a proper goodbye to her father. In her own words, “I kept trying to get on just one phone call with him, never made it past the authorities. He was utterly confused, scared and I didn’t get a chance to tell him that I hadn’t abandoned him. Unavoidable was this unnecessary pain that comes with the patient’s loneliness and family’s helplessness in the last moments. I will never forget this. Don’t make any family live through this.”
The situation has been so dire that the invasion has created shortages of wood for the pyres in the crematoriums. Usually, in these times, humanity is often lost, but it has been proved that we will get love and compassion from everywhere during these tough times. But just to think, this whole situation could have been avoided with prompt measures; that is the thought that hurts the most.