As we all know, given the urgency due to the outbreak of the pandemic, approvals for Covid vaccinations were fast tracked. This did not give pharma companies enough time to complete clinical trials and prepare everyone for protocols to handle adverse reactions. While this was done for the larger good, it has meant quite a few ‘one in a million cases’ who have had to face up to the reality. Doctors too have been trying their best to diagnose but since these cases are without any precedent, are experimenting on medication protocols to help affected patients to recover. This has meant a long road to recovery for those one a million case patients. One of them being me.Unfortunately, I got a severe reaction to the booster dose which triggered a hyper immune response leading to vasculitis, followed by myositis and then Deep Vein Thrombosis aka DVT (click here to know more ).
Thanks to the miracle of the human body, I’m happy to have made further progress on my road to recovery. I thought of putting together a few learnings along the way which are my personal observations during my road to recovery from the long illnesses, I hope you find them useful:-
1.Listen to your body – It is essential to have patience and diligently follow the medicine and diet regimen prescribed. Your body needs rest. It has a unique ability to adjust to whatever it takes to heal. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to laze around in your bed. You need to be active even while recuperating else the body will not be able to digest or help you repair.
2.Keep your mind occupied – if your condition does not permit physical activity, try to listen to music of your choice on Apple Music, Spotify or explore OTT channels – Netflix,Amazon Prime to catch up on things you always wanted to. In my case, even though I was in bed with a TV for entertainment, my mind and body could not think beyond focusing from morning to afternoon to evening sessions on how to fight the acute ache, fever as well the overall sick and drained out feeling due to lack of sound sleep through the night. However, over the period as I recovered, I was lucky to have been introduced by a few of my friends to nice offbeat and light hearted Spanish, European, Malayalam, Telugu movies*; web series # and some very interesting content on youtube$ . My son introduced me to the world of podcasts@.
Read – I picked up Body by Bill Bryson – it’s an amazingly easy to read book on the human body for a common man. It has chapters dedicated to every part of your body. It takes you behind the scenes on how your body works and introduces you to key scientists who put efforts/ history behind evolution of medicine covering wonder drugs such as penicillin, cyclosporine – a key immuno suppressant drug which has dramatically improved the success rate for organ transplants; it has been the cornerstone for my treatment.Browsing online magazines like MIT Technology Review helped keep me abreast with latest developments in the field of technology. (I came across a particularly interesting read – How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation by paying millions of $’s to the operators of clickbait pages, bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystem around the world).
3.Have faith on modern medicine – it is evidence based and has gone through a series of scientific scrutiny and validations which involve clinical examination coupled with investigations. In case of any doubt, don’t think twice before taking a second opinion. As every case is unique, it always helps as your treating doctor can also validate his line of treatment or gets a chance to discuss within his fraternity. In my case, we did this a couple of times and it really provided a huge comfort to get things validated or debated. In cases of Pyrexia of Unknown Origin (PUO) cases, also commonly known as GAKW (God Alone Knows What), modern medicine provides relief but it only helps provide time to your own body’s immune system to regroup and fight back. Your body will fight back, but you need to be patient and give it a good chance by keeping yourself and your body in a mentally and physically healthy condition at all times.
4.Act smart – long illnesses can be taxing not only on your health but also on your bank balance/ wallet. Here are a few things that are a must have a) is a sizable family floater Health insurance over and above your employers group insurance scheme. The employers group insurance policies do provide relief and are useful since they provide relaxations such as covering even pre-existing conditions etc, it should always be the go to policy for a claim in case of an eventuality. The family floater helps to be the fall back in case the expenses cross the limits or also in case of eventualities coming up during transition between jobs. b) use digital apps to order medicines- while your chemist next door might be providing you a discount of up to 10%, digital apps like Tata 1Mg or NetMeds etc go beyond that (say up to 25%, besides earning you points which can be set off against future purchases) and also provide doorstep deliveries at lighting speed. c) In case of costly medicines or medication which requires to be taken for a longer period, do check with your doctor for generics which could be available at substantially lower price points. In my case, by looking at such alternatives we were able to bring down the costs by 90% in one instance and about 50% in another. d) Besides looking for generics, also try to reach out to distributors who can supply the same medicines at wholesale price which could vary between 25-40% discounts (this is how your retail chemist is able to oblige you with a blanket 10% discount without blinking an eyelid. e) Most of the medical health insurance providers provide 30 days pre-hospitalisation and post hospitalisation cover.Choose medical health insurance providers who give 60 days pre-hospitalisation and 90 days post hospitalisation cover. This helps tremendously in cases of critical care which takes time to diagnose as well as requires longer post hospitalisation investigations along with domiciliary treatment at home till a complete recovery. f) in these times when one critical illnesses amongst younger population is on the rise, adding a critical illness rider can also come handy.
5.It takes a village to nurse patients back to good health – a) for long illness patients, seek out doctors who are accessible and communicative. This especially helps when you want to keep the doctor updated on your progress or lack of it and the secretary says the earliest available appointment is only a couple of weeks later. b) While your near and dear ones will walk the extra mile to help you during the trying times, for hospitalisation it helps to choose one which makes the logistics easier for you and your family members attending on you. c) It always feels nice when friends who are like family reach out and drop in once in a while to cheer you up. Even the immediate family gets renewed energy when they see friends reaching out to express support. So make the extra effort to reach out especially when you come to know about someone you know is going through some tough phase. d) having medico family members/friends goes a long way in getting access to top doctors without having to wait for their calendar to clear up.
6.Respect your body-keep healthy habits, exercise regularly to stay fit – surprises can come from anywhere – for e.g I had no history of previous hospitalisation and then all of a sudden this. Thanks to my good karma , I didn’t have any comorbidities. Also post competitive cricket, I had kept up with my fitness regimen. It went a long way in helping my bodyfight the side effects of the barrage of medication.
7.Adverse Effects Reporting – in case of adverse reactions to vaccination, I would strongly recommend making the effort to report details on the government site. This not only helps in collation of data at the central repository but it also creates a reference database for other medical professionals and the general public to be aware of what all can happen. For COVID vaccinations, the link has been provided on the CoWIN website.
8. Long illnesses accelerate ageing: One of my cousin is an immunologist. She gave me a useful tip to keep in mind while on the road to recovery from long illnesses – they usually accelerate ageing. Recovery back to normal takes time. It seems to be true as recovery has been a long journey for me. It has taken me more than 8 months to get back from an herculean effort to get up to have food at the dining table stage to getting back on my feet to a walk-jog-walk routine. Literally, it has been one step at a time. As the investigation reports continue to show improvement with key inflammation markers either coming within limits or continuing to show a distinct downward trend, some of the medication is being either dropped or slowly the dosage is being tapered. On the comeback trail, as the mobility improved, I started stepping out for short trips by road first, followed by train and then finally by flight. Similarly, on the exercise front, I started with 30 min to complete a 1 km walk around the colony. Then I managed to cover 2 kms in 30 min but with ache in the hips as the heavy steroid medication coupled with inactivity has lead to some muscle vesting and weight gain of a few kilos. To help build muscle strength without having to load my body weight on my lower limbs my physio recommended swimming. This helped tremendously, as I started covering 2 kms in 25 min. Post a recent visit to my physio, he has recommended a walk-jog-walk routine with which I’m able to cover 2 kms in 13-15 min. I can feel the energy levels gradually coming back. I hope my body responds positively to this loading and I’m able to progress further and be able to hold on to this even as the doctors hopefully withdraw the medication.
This has been one of my worst phases in life, a bit scary at times. But having withstood the same and reached this stage of my recovery, I now dream of celebrating my son and daughter’s birthdays, which fall in Jan, by joining my family to participate in the forthcoming Tata Mumbai Half Marathon, which is still a couple of months away. Keeping fingers crossed. Cheers!!
Notes:Here are a few of my favourite movies, web series from the OTT, youtube content and podcasts which helped me keep my mind occupied. You too might like to explore :-*Movies; Spanish – Love and Gelato, Toc Toc, I love you stupid, Thi Mai, Honeymoon with Mom, European – Toscana, Unplanned Wedding; CODA , Telugu- Yamadunga, malayalam movies Nayattu,Trance,Joji, C U Soon;# Web series like Suzhal, Panchayat,Guilty Minds, Family Man, Modern Love Mumbai, Modern Love New York, Gullak, Our Great National Parks series narrated by Barack Obama (btw Obama won a grammy for this);$ Youtube – Macroeconomics – I particularly liked Ray Dalio on How the economic cycles work, Current Affairs – Cut the clutter; National Interest by Shekar Gupta, Bollywood- Film companion, Bombay Journey;@ Podcasts – Here are a few of the podcasts introduced to me by my son – How I built this series with Guy Raz; Vox- Johann Hari; HIBT Lab- Google:Sunder Pichai.
Acknowledgements– My Friends Ashish Parulekar and Sheetal Nagle for being a solid member of my blog support team.
P.S To read my other blogs on Cricketing / Corporate Tales; Start up stories; Covid Times; Friends, Family and Marriages go to the Home Page