Video calling a luxury for family of Covid-19 infected hospital staffer in Delhi - delhi news

When a 46-year-old janitor of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC)’s Charak Palika Hospital fell ill around the end of March, his family of 12 took great pains to isolate him at their rented two-room set in Moti Bagh. “We cleared an entire room for my father. It was difficult for 11 of us to adjust in the other room, but we had to do it for everyone’s safety,” his son said.

But that compromised way of living was clearly not enough to escape the infection.

On April 4, the oldest of this 12-member family, which belongs to Samastipur in Bihar, tested positive for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Three days later, four more—his wife, son, daughter and daughter-in-law—were found to be infected.

A fortnight later, members of this family feel they were better off staying packed in one room.

“After the test results arrived, my father was sent to AIIMS in Jhajjar. My mother, sister, brother and wife are in different wards of Lok Nayak Hospital,” said the son, who is a janitor, as are his father and brother at the same hospital.

The other seven, including his two-year-old son and his sister’s two daughters—who are two years’ and two months’ old—were quarantined in a facility in South Delhi’s Chhattarpur.

The only good news they got in the last fortnight came from doctors who allowed the three children to stay with their mothers in the same ward.

“The children would keep crying. We struggled to console them. They also needed their mothers’ milk. It was impossible to keep the crying children with us at the quarantine centre. The mothers requested the doctors to let their children stay with them. They allowed the children to stay with their mothers in the same wards, but sleep on different beds and get tested frequently. So far, the children have undergone three tests and all have turned out to be negative,” the man said.

However, there is little else to cheer up the family. In fact, they can communicate with each other only occasionally.

“My father who is hospitalised in Jhajjar doesn’t receive mobile network. When he does, the calls keep getting disconnected midway,” he said.

The only other members of this family who own a mobile phone are his wife, his sister and him. “When I want to speak to my mother or brother, I call the patient next to them. Sometimes they connect us to them, other times they get irritated,” he said.

Unlike many other patients and quarantined people who spend their time video calling each other, such a facility is a luxury for this family.

As it turns out, only this man owns a smartphone while the three others have basic phones. “If another patient obliges me with a video call, I get to see my family members from a distance. We wave at each other, but can’t talk from such a distance,” the man said.

He feels that his father was infected first while going about his janitorial duties at the hospital. “He may have come in contact with some infected patients or staffer,” he said.

But a senior NDMC officer said that the man’s wife also worked in a similar role at the AIIMS trauma centre. “Since both of them worked at hospitals, the doctors aren’t able to say whether the man passed on the infection to his wife or the other way round,” the officer said.

In any case, his father’s test result was followed by the immediate testing of the other members of the family. “On April 7, we were returning home from the hospital with our own test results when the police sealed off our building. We had to leave for the hospital and quarantine centre with just the clothes we were wearing. We couldn’t take our phone chargers or even essentials,” he said.

At the quarantine centre, the man says, he and his three relatives wash their clothes at night and wear them the next day. “Thankfully, we are provided with soaps to bathe,” he said.

He also values his smartphone a little more than he did earlier. “When we walked into the quarantine centre, my phone was taken away. It was returned to me after five days. Now, my relatives and I take turns to use the phone to make calls and watch films. Sometimes I play songs for the four of us in quarantine,” he said.

On Wednesday, a fortnight since the four of them were quarantined, they sat worrying.

“We were told we would be tested after 14 days. But that hasn’t taken place. We don’t know if they plan to let us go anytime soon,” he said.

This is also a time when this family has been remembering God more. “It feels like our family has been destroyed. So, we chant God’s name. And sometimes we sing bhajans together”.

2020-04-23 12:19:49
April 23, 2020