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Mumbai: Doctor beats virus after 2 weeks on ventilator, many hallucinations and speech issues

MUMBAI: When Covid-19 struck, cardiologist Sandip Rane (62) felt his moderate symptoms would require five days of hospitalization at best, but the "tricky virus" had quietly invaded his lungs so much that he spent four weeks in hospital.

"Two weeks were spent on a ventilator . It was a near-death experience," said the Chembur doctor, also known for his court battles against illegal burning of waste at the Deonar dumping ground and the potholes on the city's roads during monsoon.

It is only now after his discharge on September 1 that the doctor is able to walk around ("I still cannot get up without support") and talk for an hour. "People need support of family, friends, nutritionists, physiotherapists as well as yoga and meditation and psychological support to get back," he told TOI.

The doctor, who credits his "comeback" to his faith in his doctors and daily rehabilitation exercises, said he became aware of the deep psychological impact of Covid when he got calls from two friends. "The friend in Vashi was worried he was alone in these Covid times and another from Thane was hospitalized due to Covid," he said. The second friend died a few days later in hospital. "His family was not prepared for his death. They hadn't seen him for days when he was in hospital and his cremation was a rushed job, leaving them shattered," said Dr Rane.

The doctor then put in place several safety checks in his Chembur hospital to ensure his staffers don't contract the virus. "I put down details about the hospital's management and other documents for my family in case something happened to me."

On August 6, two days after he developed weakness and low-grade fever, he tested positive. His doctor friends advised him to get hospitalized as his oxygen concentration came down to 94.

Covid-19 creates "silent hypoxia" or lowered oxygen concentration by surreptitiously invading the cells in the lungs. Patients don't realize until they become breathless that the infection in their chest has worsened.

Dr Rane called up Fortis Hospital, Mulund, for a bed on August 10 morning and fortunately got one by 7pm. "It was 8.30pm by the time the admission formalities were completed and I was taken in an ambulance from the main hospital building to the Covid centre. I remember waving bye to my daughter, stating I would take remdesivir injections for five days and be back."

His chest was so congested that within a few hours he had to be shifted to the ICU. "They put me on high-flow oxygen, but it didn't work, and I was put on a ventilator," he said.

It was two weeks before he was weaned off it. "We also needed to do a tracheostomy in the second week," said Fortis Hospital's ICU in-charge Dr Rahul Pandit, who has treated Dr Rane and 100 other doctors for Covid.

Dr Rane said spirituality helped him. "Statistics show not all patients on ventilator support for Covid make it. I recalled Buddha's teachings about life and death and decided this is it."

The doctor remembers he had several hallucinations in his third and fourth week in hospital. "Covid was miserable. I needed a speech therapist to be able to talk again. The focus is so much on lungs that muscles get ignored and waste away. When I left hospital, I could barely stand up.'' The take-home message, he said, is all should be prepared. "Every house should have a pulse oximeter. It would be foolish to think one won't get Covid." 

Source : Times Of India

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